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Nitya-dharma O Samsar
Eternal Duties, Household Life, and the Material World
On the bank of the Sarasvati River was an ancient merchant town named Saptagrama. For a long time a thousand merchants and bankers have lived there. By the mercy of Lord Nityananda, since the time of Shri Uddharana Datta these merchants have enthusiastically chanted the holy names of Lord Hari. Fearing that much money would be spent, a merchant named Candi dasa would not join the people of the town in chanting the holy names of Lord Hari. By living very frugally, he had accumulated a lot of money. His wife, Damayanti, who had contracted this nature from her husband, would not give due respect to Vaishnavas or guests. In their youth this merchant couple had four sons and two daughters. Marrying off first one and then the other daughter, the couple carefully kept their great wealth to give to their sons. When Vaishnavas never visit a home, the children in there do not naturally become very kind or generous. These qualities become stunted. As the children grew up they became more and more selfish. Eager to get their inheritance, they yearned for their parent's deaths. The unhappiness of the merchant couple knew no bounds. One by one the sons were also married. Imbibing their husband's nature, the daughters-in-law also began to wish their husbands' parents would die. When they became able, the sons divided their father's wealth, and set themselves up as merchants.
One day Candi dasa called together his sons and said, “Look. By living frugally since childhood, I have accumulated some wealth for your sakes. For all this time your mother and I have not eaten good food or dressed in nice clothing. Now we are growing old and you should take care of us. That is your duty. However, I see that you are not inclined to take care of us, and that has made me very sad. I have some wealth hidden away, and I will give to whomever amongst you acts like a good son.
Hearing these words, the sons and their wives became silent. Meeting in another place, they all decided that the best thing would be to send father and mother far away and then take the hidden money, for there was no saying to whom the old man would wrongly give it. All were sure the wealth was hidden in the father's bedroom.
The father's eldest son was named Hari-carana. One morning he said to his father, "Father, you and mother so go and see Shridhama Navadvipa. In that way your human life will be successful. I have heard that in the age of Kali no holy place is sacred and auspicious like Navadvipa. To travel to Navadvipa is neither difficult nor expensive. If you cannot walk, for two panas a boat can take you there. If you wish, a Vaishnava lady is willing to accompany you there.
Candi dasa consulted with his wife, Damayanti. She was very happy. The two talked. "Your words the other day brought our sons to their senses. We are not so weak that we cannot walk. Passing through Kalna and Shantipura, let us go to Shridhama Navadvipa."
Noting an auspicious day, the two began their pilgrimage. Walking and walking, on the next day they came to Ambika. Staying there at a merchant's place, they cooked and ate their meal. A man from Saptagrama came there and told them, “Your sons broke into your room and took all your belongings. They will not allow you to return home. They have taken all your hidden wealth."
Hearing this, Candi dasa and his wife lamented greatly. On that day they would not eat. They wept and wept. The Vaishnava lady accompanying them said, "Don't be attached to your home. Continue traveling. Renounce the world. Meet the Vaishnavas. They for whom you have done so much have now become your enemies. Now you cannot return home. Continue traveling. You can stay in Navadvipa. By begging you can eat. All will be well."
Hearing of what their sons and daughters-in-law had done, Candi dasa and his wife said again and again, "We will not return home. It is better that we give up our lives. That would be best."
After that they stayed at the home of a Vaishnava in Ambika-grama. After two or four days they went to see Shantipura, and then they went to Navadvipa. There they stayed in Mayapura, in the home of a relative who was a merchant. They stayed for two or four days and then went to see the seven village of Navadvipa, and, on the other side of the ganga, the seven villages of Kuliya-grama. After a few days love for their sons and daughters-in-law again arose in their hearts.
Candi dasa said, "Come. Let us go to Saptagrama. Will not our sons love us even a little?" Then the Vaishnava lady who was accompanying them said, "Have you no shame? They will kill you. Hearing this, the old couple became afraid. They said to her, "O saintly Vaishnava, please return to your home. We will live alone. We will approach a saintly person, learn from him, and live by begging."
The Vaishnava lady left. The merchant couple gave up all hope of returning home. They considered building a new home in the Chakari Catta neighborhood of Kuliya-grama. After begging from many good people, they were able to build a cottage. In sacred Kuliya-grama past offenses are all forgiven. When a person lives there his past offenses are thrown far away. That is what is said about that place.
One day Candi dasa said, "O mother of Hari, why do you continue like this? Don't say anything more about your sons. Don't even think of them. In our past lives we must have committed many, many offenses. That is why we took birth in the homes of merchants. Because of that low birth we became misers and refused to serve Vaishnavas and guests. If here we can make a little money, we should use it to serve guests. Then our next birth will be good. I have set my mind to open a grocery store. I will approach some good people, beg five coins from each, and start a grocery. After a few days of striving in that way, Candi dasa finally opened a small store. Every day he earned a small profit. After eating a full meal, every day the husband and wife fed a guest. Candi dasa lived better than he did before.
Candi dasa was a little educated. In his spare moments at the store he would read Gunaraja Khana's book Shri Krishna-vijaya. He was honest in buying and selling and he would serve guests. In this way five or six months passed. When they learned his story, the people of Kuliya-grama began to have faith in Candi dasa.
It was in that neighborhood that Yadava dasa lived. Yadava dasa was a householder Vaishnava. He would read Shri Chaitanya-mangala. Sometimes Candi dasa would listen to him reading. Yadava dasa and his wife liked to serve the Vaishnavas. Seeing them, Candi dasa and his wife also came to like serving the Vaishnavas.
One day Candi dasa asked Yadava dasa, "What is the material world?" Yadava dasa replied, "On the other shore of the Ganga, on the island of Godruma, live many learned Vaishnavas. Go there. Ask them this question. I go there sometimes and in that way I learn many things. Nowadays the Vaishnava panditas in Shri Godruma better scripture scholars than even the brahmana panditas. Yesterday and assembly of brahmana panditas were defeated in debate by Shri Vaishnava dasa Babaji. He will give a good answer to your question.
That afternoon Yadava dasa and Candi dasa crossed the Ganga. Damayanti was now accustomed to serve the Vaishnavas. The miserliness in her heart had lessened. She said, "I will go with you to Shri Godruma." Yadava dasa said, "The Vaishnavas there are not householders. They are renunciants. I think they will not be happy to have you in their midst." Damayanti said, "I will offer dandavat obeisances from afar. I will not enter into the middle of the grove. I am an old lady. They will not be angry with me." Then Yadava dasa said, "The custom is that women may not go there. It is better that you merely wait nearby and accompany us when we return."
At nine in the morning the three of them crossed the Ganga and approached Pradyumna-kunja. At the entrance to the forest grove Damayanti offered dandavat obeisances and sat down under an old banyan tree. Yadava dasa and Candi dasa entered the forest grove and devotedly offered dandavat obeisances to the Vaishnavas sitting in the place of madhavi and malati vines.
The paramahamsa babaji was sitting there. On his four sides were Shri Vaishnava dasa, Lahiri Mahashaya, Ananta dasa Babaji, and many others. Yadava dasa approached and sat down. Candi dasa sat beside him.
Saintly Ananta dasa Babaji asked, "Who is the new man?" Yadava dasa repeated all of Candi dasa's story. Ananta dasa Babaji smiled and said, "Yes. That is what is called `the material world.' He who knows the true nature of this world is wise. He who is trapped in the cycle of birth and death in this world is truly an object of pity."
Candi dasa's heart gradually become purified. One who performs eternal pious deeds attains auspiciousness. Honoring the Vaishnavas and reading and hearing the Vaishnava scriptures were the beginning of Candi dasa's eternal pious deeds. By performing these pious deeds again and again he became pure in heart and attained sincere faith in pure devotional service. When he heard Ananta dasa's words, Candi dasa, his heart now beginning to melt, said, "Today I make this request: Please be merciful and tell me clearly: What is the material world?"
Shri Ananta dasa: Candi dasa, your question is very serious. I wish that either the paramahamsa babaji or Shri Vaishnava dasa Babaji would give the answer.
The Paramahamsa Babaji: This is a serious question. Shri Ananta dasa Babaji is qualified to give the answer. Today we will all listen to the instruction he gives.
Ananta dasa: I must obey your order. I will speak as far as I have understanding. I will begin by remembering the lotus feet of my spiritual master, Shrila Pradyumna Brahmacari, who is an exalted personal associate of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
The individual spirit soul has two state of existence: 1. the liberated state, and 2. the state of bondage in the prison of the material world. An individual soul who is a pure devotee of Lord Krishna is not bound by the illusory potency maya. By Lord Krishna's mercy such a soul is liberated from the material world of maya. He is a liberated soul. His state of existence is the liberated state. On the other hand, a soul who tries to avoid Lord Krishna falls into the gaping mouth o the illusory potency maya. Such a soul is imprisoned in the material world. His state of existence is residence in the material world. A soul liberated from maya is always conscious of his original spiritual identity. His whole life is service to Lord Krishna. Such a soul does not reside in the material world. He resides in one of the pure spiritual worlds. Goloka, Vaikuntha, and Vrindavana are the names of some of these pure spiritual worlds. The souls free from maya are limitless in number. They cannot be counted.
The souls bound in maya's prison are also limitless in number. They cannot be counted either. A soul averse to Lord Krishna, is bound by Lord Krishna's shadow-potency maya, who binds that soul with ropes of goodness, passion, and ignorance. Because of the difference of these three ropes, the imprisoned souls are placed in many different states of existence. The variety of those states is astonishing. They who think for a moment will see this astonishing variety. These souls manifest an astonishing variety of material bodies, an astonishing variety of states of existence, an astonishing variety of forms, an astonishing variety of natures, an astonishing variety residences, and an astonishing variety of movements. When he first enters the material world, the soul is covered by a new sense of identity. In his pure state of existence the soul thinks "I am a servant of Lord Krishna". However, in the state of material bondage the soul thinks: "I am a human being." "I am a demigod." "I am an animal." I am a king." I am a brahmana." I am an outcaste." I am suffering." "I am hungry." "I am insulted." "I am generous." “I am a husband." "I am a wife." "I am a father." "I am a son." "I am an enemy." “I am a friend." "I am learned." "I am handsome." "I am wealthy." "I am poor." “I am happy." "I am sad." "I am strong." “I am weak." In this way the soul may have different conceptions of his identity. This is called "false-ego". There is also another thing called "false possessiveness". In the grip of false-possessiveness, the soul thinks: "This is my house. "This is my thing. "This is my wealth." "This is my body." “This is my son and my daughter." "This is my wife." "This is my husband." "This is my father." “This is my mother." "This is my caste into which I was born." "This is my power." "This is my form." "This is my virtue." "This is my knowledge." “This is my renunciation." "This is my wisdom." “This is my activity." "This is my good fortune." “These are my servants and dependents." In this way the soul uses the word "my" in many different ways. This great variety of "I"s and ""My"s are called "the material world".
Yadava dasa: I see how there are many "I"s and “My"s in the state of material bondage. But are there no “I"s and "My"s in the liberated state?
Ananta dasa: In the liberated state the "I"s and "My"s are all spiritual and free of fault. There is manifested the soul's original spiritual identity, which was originally created by Lord Krishna. Because of these different spiritual identities, in the spiritual world there are many different "I"s. Although all souls there are Lord Krishna's servants, they have a great variety of spiritual relationships with the Lord. All there different relationships manifest the idea of "My".
Yadava dasa: If this is so, then what is the fault in the great variety of "I"s and "My"s manifest among the souls bound in the material world?
Ananta dasa: the fault is this: In the soul's pure state the ideas of "I" and "My" are based on reality. However, when the soul resides in the material world these ideas of "I" and "My" are artificial impositions. They are not real. They are illusions. In the material world they are all temporary, unnatural, and the sources of fleeting pleasures and pains.
Yadava dasa: Then is the material world an illusion?
Ananta dasa: The material world is not an illusion. By Lord Krishna's will it is a reality. However, a soul who enters this world has many illusory conceptions of "I" and “My". Those false conceptions are illusions./ the mayavadis, who are all offenders, claim that this world is an illusion.
Yadava dasa: Why do we have illusory material relationships?
Ananta dasa: The individual soul is a tiny particle of spirit. The first situation of the soul is on the boundary line that separates the spiritual and material worlds. In that condition the souls that do not forget their original relationship with Lord Krishna come under the control of the spiritual potency and are drawn into the spiritual world. Becoming eternal associates of Lord Krishna, they enjoy the bliss of serving Him directly. The souls who are averse to Lord Krishna and who wish the enjoy the pleasures offered by maya are drawn into the world of maya. That is why we now reside in the material world. When we enter the material world we forget our true spiritual identity. Then we think "I am the enjoyer of maya." Then maya encircles us with a great variety of false identities.
Yadava dasa: Why, then, though we endeavor to attain it, do we not succeed in regaining the consciousness of our original spiritual identity?
Ananta dasa: Those endeavors are of two kinds: 1.appropriate, and 2. inappropriate. Appropriate endeavors inevitably throw far away all material illusions about our identity. On the other hand, how can one succeed if his endeavors are not appropriate?
Yadava dasa: What are inappropriate endeavors? Please tell me.
Ananta dasa: When a soul purifies his heart by performing the duties of karma-kanda, takes shelter of the impersonal Brahman, and thinks "Now I will become free of maya", his endeavors are all inappropriate. When a soul ties to attain spiritual perfection by performing astanga-yoga and entering a trance of samadhi, his endeavor also is inappropriate. There are many other kinds of inappropriate endeavor also.
Yadava dasa: Why are these endeavors not appropriate?
Ananta dasa: they are not appropriate because many obstacles stop one from attaining the desired results by practicing them, and because there is only the most slender chance that one will succeed by practicing them. We were thrust into this material world because we committed an offense. We will not be able to throw away our material condition of life without first attaining the mercy of that person we offended. Without His mercy we will not attain our original pure state.
Yadava dasa: What are the appropriate means?
Ananta dasa: Association with devotees and surrender. Association with devotees is described in these words of Shrimad-Bhagavatam (11.2.30):
ata atyantikam kshemam
pricchamo bhavato 'naghah
samsare 'smin kshanardho 'pi
sat-sangah shevadhir nrinam
"Therefore, O completely sinless ones, I ask you to kindly tell me what the supreme good is. After all, even half a minute's association with pure devotees within this world of birth and death is a priceless treasure for any man."***
If you ask, "How can the souls in this material world attain the supreme good," then I say, "if one has a moment's association with the devotees of the Lord, then one will attain the supreme good." The Supreme Personality of Godhead describes surrender in these words of Bhagavad-gita (7.14):
daivi hy esha gunamayi
mama maya duratyaya
mam eva ye prapadyante
mayam etam taranti te
"This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it."*
Here the Lord says, "My divine maya potency consists of the three material modes of goodness, passion, and ignorance. By his own endeavor, a human being cannot cross beyond this maya. Therefore this maya is very difficult to overcome. However a person who surrenders unto Me and takes shelter of Me can cross beyond this maya."
Candi dasa: O saintly one, I am not able to understand all these explanations very well. This much I understand: I am originally a pure being. Forgetting Krishna, I have fallen into maya. I am bound in the prison of the material world. By Lord Krishna's mercy I may be released. If I do not attain Lord Krishna mercy, I will stay in this condition.
Ananta dasa: Yes. Now you accept this much. Your teacher, Yadava dasa, knows all these truths, and you have learned them from him. In the book Shri Prema-vivarta, Shri Jagadananda, who is a close associate of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, has said:
cit-kanajiva, krishnacin-maya bhaskar
nitya krishne dekhikrishne karen adar
"The individual soul is a tiny particle of spirit, and Lord Krishna is a great sun of spirit. The liberated soul always gazes at Lord Krishna. The liberated soul always worships Lord Krishna.
krishna bahirmukha hana bhoga-vancha kare
nikata-stha maya tare japatiya dhare
"As soon as one becomes inimical to Krishna and desires sense gratification, he is immediately struck down by the illusory energy of the Lord.*
pishaci paile jena mati-cchanna hay
maya-grasta jiver hay se bhava uday
"When a living entity is conditioned by material nature, he is exactly like a person haunted by a ghost.*
ami siddha krishna dasa ei katha bhule
mayara naphara hana cira-dina bule
"Forgetting the words `In my perfect state I am servant of Krishna', he serves maya for a long time.
kabhu raja, kabhu praja, kabhu vipra shudra
kabhu duhkhi, kabhu sukhi, kabhu kita kshudra
"Sometimes he is a king. Sometimes he is a citizen. Sometimes he is a brahmana. Sometimes he is a shudra. Sometimes he is sad. Sometimes he is happy. Sometimes he is a tiny insect.
kabhu svarge, kabhu martye, narake va kabhu
kabhu deva, kabhu daitya, kabhu dasa, prabhu
"Sometimes he is in Svargaloka. Sometimes he is in the earthly realms. Sometimes he is in hell. Sometimes he is a demigod. Sometimes he is a demon. Sometimes he is a servant. Sometimes he is a master. Sometimes he is a servant.
ei-rupe samsara bhramite kona jan
sadhu-sange nija-tattva avagata han
"Thus he wanders in the material worlds. When he attains the association of devotees, he can understand the truth about himself.
nija-tattva jani ara samsara na cay
kena va bhajinu maya kare kaya hay
"When he understands the truth about himself he no longer wishes to stay in the material world. Then he laments, `Why did I serve maya for so long?'
kende bole, ohe krishna, ami taba das
tomara carana chadi haila sarva-nash
"He weeps and cries out, `O Krishna, I am Your servant. By leaving Your feet, I lost everything.
kakuti kariya krishne dake eka-bar
kripa kari krishna tare chadana samsar
"When the soul once cries for Krishna in this way, Lord Krishna becomes merciful and helps him leave the material world.
mayake pichane rakhi krishna-pane cay
bhajite bhajite krishna-pada-padma pay
"Then the soul turns away from maya. Again and again worshiping Krishna, the soul attains Krishna's lotus feet.
krishna tare dena nija cic-chaktira bal
maya akarshana chade haiya durbal
"Krishna then places that soul under the protection of His internal potency. Maya then loses her power. Maya no longer attracts that soul.
sadhu-sanga krishna-nama ei-matra cai
samsara jinite ara kona vastu nai
"This is attained by associating with devotees and chanting the holy names of Lord Krishna. There is no other way to escape the material world of birth and death."
Yadava dasa: O saintly babaji, you speak of association with devotees, but devotees also live in the material world. They also suffer in the material world. How is it possible that they can deliver other souls?
Ananta dasa: Devotees live in the material world. Still, there material world that is their home is very different from the material world that is home to the souls bewildered by maya. Looking at them from the outside, they seem to be the same world. But within they are very different. There are always some devotees in the material world. Still, the non-devotees do not choose to associate with them. The association of devotees is rarely attained. The souls devoured by maya may be divided into two groups: 1. they who, mad to enjoy the tiny pleasures of maya, worship the material world, and 2. the intelligent souls who, not attracted to the pleasures of maya, hope to attain better pleasures. In this way the residents of the material world are divided into two groups: 1. the unintelligent, and 2. the intelligent. Some call these two groups: 1. they who desire material sense gratification, and 2. they who desire liberation. The phrase "they who desire liberation" does not refer to the impersonalists. It means "they who, burned by the flames of the world of repeated birth and death, seek to understand their true spiritual identity. The Vedic literatures call such persons "they who desire liberation". When such persons renounce the desire to attain impersonal liberation and instead engage in worshiping and serving the Supreme Personality of Godhead, their worship is called pure devotional service. The scriptures do not order that one should renounce the desire for liberation. Rather, the moment he understands the truth of Lord Krishna and the individual spirit soul, the person desiring liberation becomes at once liberated. This is explained in the following words of Shrimad-Bhagavatam (6.14.3-5):
parthivair iha jantavah
tesham ye kecanehante
shreyo vai manujadayah
"In this material world there are as many living entities as atoms. Among these living entities a very few are human beings, and among them few are interested in following religious principles.*
prayo mumukshavas tesham
kashcin mucyeta sidhyati
"O best of the brahmanas, Sukadeva Gosvami, out of many persons who follow religious principles, only a few desire liberation from the material world. Among many thousands who desire liberation, one may actually achieve liberation, giving up material attachment to society, friendship, love. country, home, wife, and children. And among many thousands of such liberated persons, one who can understand the true meaning of liberation is very rare.*
muktanam api siddhanam
kotishv api maha-mune
"O great sage, among many millions who are liberated and perfect in knowledge of liberation, one may be a devotee of Lord Narayana, or Krishna. Such devotees, who are fully peaceful, are extremely rare."*
As the number grains of sand in the world cannot be counted, so the number of individual spirit souls also cannot be counted. Among these souls a small number seek eternal auspiciousness. Most are interested in material sense gratification. Of they who seek the highest spiritual good, most are interested in liberation, which means to escape the material world. Of thousands and thousands of souls seeking liberation, some few attain the perfection of truth and actually become liberated. Of millions and millions of liberated souls, some few become peaceful devotees of Lord Narayana. A devotee of Lord Narayana is very rare. A devotee of Lord Krishna is even more rare. Even though they may live in the material world, the devotees of Lord Krishna experience a life that is different from the life of the materialists. The devotees of Lord Krishna experience two conditions of existence.
Yadava dasa: You have said that there are four kinds of intelligent persons. What are their different states of existence, and what is association with devotees?
Ananta dasa: There are four kinds of intelligent persons: 1. they who are the the beginning stage of being intelligent, 2. they who desire to attain liberation, 3. they who are liberated, and 4. they who have attained perfection, or in other words, the devotees of the Lord. For persons at the beginning states of being intelligent, association with persons who desire liberation is good. The liberated souls may be divided into two groups: 1. liberated souls who taste the nectar of the spiritual mellows, and 2. the mayavadis, who falsely imagine that they are not different from the Supreme. These mayavadis are considered offenders. All classes of people are forbidden to associate with them. In the Tenth Canto (Shrimad-Bhagavatam 10.2.31) it is said:
ye 'nye 'ravindaksha vimukta-maninas
tvayy asta-bhavad avishuddha-buddhayah
aruhya kricchrena param padam tatah
patanty adho 'nadrita-yushmad-anghrayah
"O lotus-eyed one, those who think they are liberated in this life but do not render devotional service to You must be of impure intelligence. Although they accept sever austerities and penances and rise to the spiritual position, to impersonal Brahman realization, they fall down again because they neglect to worship Your lotus feet."*
The fourth kind of intelligent person, the devotees, are divided into two groups: 1. they who worship the Lord in His feature of opulence, and 2. they who worship the Lord in His feature of sweetness. Association with such devotees is beneficial in every way. Especially, if one takes shelter of a devotee who is attached to the Lord's feature in sweetness, the nectar of pure devotional service rises within his heart.
Yadava dasa: You have said that there are two kinds of devotees. Please describe them more clearly, so even unintelligent persons like myself can understand.
Ananta dasa: The devotees are of two kinds: 1. householder devotees, and 2. devotees who have renounced householder life.
Yadava dasa: What is the situation of a householder devotee in the material world. Please kindly explain this.
Ananta dasa: The word "householder" does not mean "one who builds a house". Rather, the word means “a person who accepts a wife and stays with her in a house". A devotee in this situation is called a "householder devotee". A soul bound in the prison of the illusory potency maya, enters the material world through the doors of the five knowledge-acquiring senses. Through the door of the eyes he sees forms and colors. Through the door of the ears he hears sounds. Through the door of the nose he smells fragrances. Through the door of the skin he touches. Through the door of the tongue he tastes. Entering the material world through these five doors, the soul becomes attached to the world. As he becomes attached to the material world, the soul goes farther and farther from Shri Krishna, the Lord of the heart. That is why the material world is called "the external world". They who are mad after enjoying the material world are called hedonists. The householder devotees of the Lord are not eager to please their senses. Therefore they are not like the hedonists. For a householder devotee, his wife is the maidservant of Lord Krishna. His sons and daughters are also all the servants of Lord Krishna. When with his eyes he sees the Deity form of Lord Krishna or the form of things related to Lord Krishna, the householder devotee becomes happy. When with his ears he hears the topics of Lord Krishna or the biographies of the great devotees, the householder devotee becomes happy. When with his nose he smells the tulasi leaves and fragrances offered to Lord Krishna, the householder devotee becomes filled with bliss. With his tongue the householder devotee tastes the holy names of Lord Krishna and remnants of food offered to Lord Krishna. When with his skin he touches the feet of the Lord's devotees, the householder devotee becomes happy. His hopes, actions, desires, hospitality, and service to the Deity are all used in the service of Lord Krishna. His entire life is a great festival of 1. mercy to others, 2. the holy name of Lord Krishna, and 3. service to Vaishnavas. In this way a devotee householder remains aloof from hedonism. In the age of Kali it is very appropriate that the individual souls become householder Vaishnava. In that way there is no fear that they will fall down. Also, by following this path one may attain the full perfection of devotional service. Many self-realized Vaishnava spiritual masters are householders. Their children also are pure devotees. In this way association with bouseholder devotees of the Lord is especially beneficial to the souls in this world.
Yadava dasa: Householder Vaishnavas are naturally under the control of the smarta panditas. If the Vaishnavas try to be independent of them, there is trouble. In this situation how is it possible to engage in pure devotional service?
Ananta dasa: For marrying off sons and daughters, for performing funeral rites, and for a few other rituals it may be necessary to engage smarta panditas. Still, there is no need to engage them for the spiritual activities that are most dear to the heart. Look, for maintaining the material body all are dependent on others. Even they who proudly think themselves independent are in truth still dependent on others. When one suffers from disease, he must take medicine. When one is hungry, he must eat food. To ward off the cold, one must accept clothing. Because of the sun, rain, and other difficulties one must build a house. For these and many other things one needs to maintain his material body, one must depend on others. To be independent is merely, as far as possible, to limit these situations of depending on others. The truth is, however, that no one can be completely independent and still maintain his material body. Still, to be independent as far as possible is good and helpful for devotional service. If one observes all these previously described rituals in relation to Lord Krishna, then there is no fault in observing them. For example, if marriage is accepted not only to beget good children and worship the Prajapati, but also to engage one's wife and family in devotional service to Lord Krishna and to make one's home a temple of Lord Krishna, then household life is favorable for devotional service. Let the materialists, the Vedic priests, and others say what they will, one still attains the spiritual benefit of these devotional activities. On the shraddha day one should first worship Lord Krishna, offer the remnants of that offering as pinda to his ancestors, and then feed the brahmana Vaishnavas. These activities are favorable for a householder's devotional service. When these smarta rituals may be performed in the context of devotional service. Then that are not at all unfavorable to pure devotional service. Ordinary activities should be done with a sense of detachment and renunciation. Spiritual activities should be performed in the association of devotees. Then one will not be at fault. Look. Most of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's personal associates were householder devotees. From time without beginning many great rajarshis (saintly kings) and devarshis (divine sages) were householder devotees. Dhruva Maharaja, Prahlada Maharaja, the Pandavas, and many others were all householders. Householder devotees of the Lord are worshiped by al the world.
Yadava dasa: If householder devotees are so worshipable and qualified to attain all spiritual love, then why do some devotees renounce householder life?
Ananta dasa: Among the householder devotees, for some it is appropriate to renounce household life. However, in the material world the number of these devotees is very small and association with them is very rare.
Yadava dasa: What makes a man qualified to renounce household life?
Ananta dasa: Human beings have two kinds of activities: 1. external activities, and 2. internal activities. In the language of the Vedas these activities are called "parak" and “pratyak". When a pure spirit soul forgets its original spiritual form, misidentifies himself as a subtle material body (of mind, intelligence, and false ego), and, exits through the door of the material senses, he becomes attracted to the external world of material sense objects. These are called “external activities". When the direction is reversed, and the soul goes from the material sense objects to the mind and then to the original form of the soul, then these are called “internal activities". As long as the desire to perform external activities is strong, one should stay in the association of devotees, and without offense perform these external activities with the idea that this material world is Lord Krishna's property. By thus taking shelter of devotional service to Lord Krishna, in a very short time the external direction of one's activities becomes reversed and one's activities are then directed inward. When one is thus fully engaged in internal spiritual activities, he becomes qualified to renounce household life. If one tries to renounce household life before one reaches that stage, then there is the danger that he will fall down. Household life is then a school where one gains experience and learns the true nature of the spirit soul. When the education is complete, one may leave the school.
Yadava dasa: What are the symptoms of a devotee qualified to renounce household life?
Ananta dasa: The first symptom is that 1. one is not enthusiastic to associate with women. Other symptoms are: 2. mercy to all living entities, 3. considering that activities to accumulate money are not very important, 4. endeavoring to attain a home and clothing only when they are genuinely needed, 5. faith in Lord Krishna, 6. love and devotion for Lord Krishna, 7. considering that it is not good to associate with worldly people, 8. thinking praise and criticism are the same, 8. aversion to material activities, and 9. not being concerned whether one lives or dies. These symptoms are described in the following words of the scriptures (Shrimad-Bhagavatam 11.2.45, 3.25.22, and 11.2.55):
sarva-bhuteshu yah pashyed
bhutany bhagavaty atmany
"A person advanced in devotional service sees within everything the soul of all souls, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Shri Krishna. Consequently he always sees the form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead as the cause of all causes and understands that all things are situated in Him."*
mayy ananyena bhavena
bhaktim kurvanti ye dridham
"Such a sadhu engages in staunch devotional service to the Lord without deviation. For the sake of the Lord he renounces all other connections, such as family relationships and friendly acquaintances within the world."*
vishrijati hridayam na yasya sakshad
dharir avashabhihito 'py aghaugha-nashah
sa bhavati bhagavata-pradhana uktah
"Hari, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who destroys everything inauspicious for His devotees, does not leave the hearts of His devotees even if they remember Him and chant about Him inattentively. This is because the rope of love always binds the Lord within the devotees' hearts. Such devotees should be accepted as most elevated."*
When these qualities manifest in a householder devotee, that devotee finds himself unable to continue with his household duties. At that time he renounces household life. Such a renounced devotee is rare. Association with such a devotee brings great good fortune.
Yadava dasa: Nowadays I see that some young men renounce household life, accept the garments of a renunciant, build a temple, and serve the Lord. As time passes they eventually fall into evil association with women, but they do not give up chanting the holy names of Lord Hari. To maintain the temple they beg alms at different places. Are such devotees householders or renunciants?
Ananta dasa: You ask many questions at once. Can I reply in a single answer? Being young or old has no bearing on renunciation. By purification in past lives or in this life a young man may become qualified to renounce household life. From his very birth Sukadeva Gosvami was qualified for renunciation. One should see if the qualification is genuinely there. It should not be artificial. If he is genuinely renounced, there is no harm in a young man accepting the renounced order.
Yadava dasa: What is genuine renunciation and what is artificial renunciation?
Ananta dasa: Genuine renunciation is strong. It does not break in any situation. Artificial renunciation is based on the desire to be honored by others. This kind of renunciation is marked by cheating and impiety. Thinking "a devotee who renounces household life is worshiped and respected," and hoping to be worshiped in this way, a man artificially renounces the world. Such renunciation brings no benefit. Rather, it is the source of great inauspiciousness. As soon as he attains his end and he accepts the order of renunciation, his qualifications disappear. From that moment his true wickedness is manifested.
Yadava dasa: When a devotee renounces family life should he accept the garments of a renunciant?
Ananta dasa: When he has definitely thrown far away the desire for household life, a devotee may live in the forest (as a renunciant) or he may live at home (as a householder). In either situation he remains a renounced soul, who has nothing to do with the material world. Such a great devotee purifies the entire world. Among these renounced souls some accept the external signs of the renounced order and wear the kaupina and kantha. At the time of accepting the kaupina and kantha, they take a firm vow of renunciation in the presence of other renounced Vaishnavas. This is called, "entering the renounced ashrama" or “accepting the garments of a renunciant". If one accepts the garments of a renunciant, what is the harm? One who has thus renounced the world should not stay in contact with his relatives. He should stay away from them. He should not desire to enter either his home or another's. A person who is genuinely renounced should be cautious in dealing with others. A person advanced in renunciation does not need to wear the garments of a renunciant. Still, for some persons wearing the garments of renunciation is useful. It is said (Shrimad-Bhagavatam 4.29.45):
sa jahati matim loke
vede ca parinishthitam
"When a person is fully engaged in devotional service, he is favored by the Lord, who bestows His causeless mercy. At such a time, the awakened devotee gives up all material activities and ritualistic performances mentioned in the Vedas."*
Yadava dasa: From whom should one accept the garments of a renunciant?
Ananta dasa: One should accept the garments of a renunciant from a Vaishnava who has renounced household life. A householder devotee has not experienced the ways of one who has renounced household life, therefore a householder devotee should not give initiation into the renounced ashrama. The reason for this is written in these words of the scriptures (Shri Brahma-vaivarta Purana):
loka-nashaya tad bhavet
"If one teaches a religious principle he does not himself follow, that teaching pushes the world closer to destruction."
Yadava dasa: What thoughts arise in the mind of a spiritual master who is about to give initiation into the renounced ashrama?
Ananta dasa: First the spiritual master should see whether the disciple is qualified. Has this householder devotee bee4n able, by engaging in devotional service, to control his mind and senses and act in a spiritual way? Is he free of the desire to associate with a woman? Has he uprooted the thirst for money and the desire to eat sumptuous foods? the spiritual master will stay near the disciple and observe him for some day. When he knows for certain that the disciple is qualified, the spiritual master will initiate him into the renounced order. He will not initiate any disciple before knowing that he is qualified. If he gives an unqualified person initiation into the renounced order, the spiritual master himself will fall down.
Yadava dasa: Now I see. Accepting the renounced order is not simply a matter of speaking words with one's mouth. It is very difficult. Pretenders who are not qualified to be spiritual masters are making it a common thing. Now is only the beginning. No one knows what will be the end.
Ananta dasa: In order to keep this system pure, Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu punished Chota Haridasa, whose offense was very slight. The followers of Lord Chaitanya should always remember the punishment of Chota Haridasa.
Yadava dasa: After accepting the order of renunciation should one build a temple and worship the Deity of the Lord?
Ananta dasa: No. A person who has accepted the renounced order should live by begging every day. In that way he should maintain his life. He will not enter a situation of dealing with material affairs, as will come from building a temple. He will live in a secluded cottage, or in a temple managed by a householder. He will not do anything that requires money. He will always offenselessly chant the holy names of Lord Krishna.
Yadava dasa: What do you say about a renunciant who builds a temple and then lives like a householder?
Ananta dasa: I say he is a person who eats his own vomit. First he vomits, and then he eats what he has vomited.
Yadava dasa: Is he not a Vaishnava?
Ananta dasa: he has become a materialist. He breaks the rules of scripture and the rules of being a Vaishnava. Why should you associate with him? He has renounced the ways of pure devotional service and accepted the role of a cheater. How is he like the Vaishnavas?
Yadava dasa: If he has not given up chanting the holy names of Lord Hari, how can you say he has ceased to be a Vaishnava?
Ananta dasa: Chanting the holy names of Lord Hari and committing offenses to the holy name of Lord Hari are different things. When a person commits sin on the strength of chanting the holy name, that is an offense to the holy name. You should stay always very far away from offenses to the holy name.
Yadava dasa: Should his household life not be called “household life dedicated to Lord Krishna"?
Ananta dasa: It should not be called that. In household life dedicated to Lord Krishna there is no cheating or hypocrisy. That household life is completely honest and sincere. That household life is not based on an offense.
Yadava dasa: Then I suppose he is inferior to a regular householder devotee.
Ananta dasa: He is not a devotee. How can you consider his status, high or low, among the devotees?
Yadava dasa: How can he be rescued?
Ananta dasa: When he gives up all his offenses, always chants the holy name, and sheds tears of repentance, he may be counted again among the devotees.
Yadava dasa: O saintly babaji, householder devotees live under the shelter of the varnashrama system. May a householder devotee leave the varnashrama system?
Ananta dasa: Ah! The Vaishnava religion is very broad and generous. Another name for the Vaishnava religion is “Jaiva-dharma" (the religion for all human beings). This means that every human being is qualified to join the Vaishnava religion. Even outcastes may embrace the Vaishnava religion and live as householders. For them there is no varnashrama. They who break the varnashrama rules of sannyasa may, by associating with devotees, attain pure devotional service. Then they may be householder devotees. For them there are no rules of varnashrama. They who because of their misdeeds have left the varnashrama system may still, along with their children, take shelter of pure devotional service in the association of the devotees. Then they are householder devotees. But they are not part of the varnashrama system. Householder devotees are of two kinds: 1. They who follow the varnashrama system, and 2. they who do not follow the varnashrama system.
Yadava dasa: Of these two which is the best?
Ananta dasa: He who has more devotion is the best. If neither have any devotion then according to the material point of view the follower of varnashrama is better because he is pious and the other is an outcaste. However, from the spiritual point of view they are both degraded, for neither has any devotion.
Yadava dasa: is a householder devotee allowed to wear the garments of a renunciant?
Ananta dasa: No, for he cheats himself and he cheats the world also. Those are his two faults. If a householder wears a kaupina and the other garments of renunciant then that householder mocks and insults the true renunciants.
Yadava dasa: O saintly babaji, do the scriptures describe how one should accept the garments of a renunciant?
Ananta dasa: Not very specifically. People of every caste may become Vaishnavas. However, in the opinion of the scriptures, none but the brahmanas may accept sannyasa. In Shrimad-Bhagavatam (7.11.35), after describing the features of the different castes, Narada Muni explains:
yasya yal lakshanam proktam
yad anyatrapi drishyeta
tat tenaiva vinirdishet
"If one shows the symptoms of being a brahmana, kshatriya, vaishya, or shudra, as described above, even if he has appeared in a different class, he should be accepted according to those symptoms of classification."*
This verse means, "A person's caste is determined by his personal characteristics, and they were previously described. Thus the scriptures declare that a person born in a non-brahmana family should be considered a brahmana if he is seen to have the qualities of a brahmana, and that such a brahmana may become qualified to accept sannyasa. This is the opinion of all the scriptures. From the spiritual point of view, this is proved. Still, they who look at things from the material point of view do not accept it.
Yadava dasa: Candi dasa, they certainly answered your question.
Candi dasa: Of all the instructions that came from the saintly and honorable babaji's mouth, this much I understand: The individual soul is eternally the servant of Lord Krishna. Forgetting Krishna, the soul takes shelter of a material body and, pushed by maya's modes of nature, he experiences material happiness and distress. The result of his material activities is that he must wear around his neck a garland of birth, old age, and death. Sometimes he is born in an exalted situation and sometimes in a lowly situation. He takes birth after birth, and in each birth he has a new conception of who he is. As he stays in a fragile material body that may be torn apart at any moment, hunger, thirst, and other promptings push him to act in various ways. Unable to attain what he wishes, he is troubled in many ways in this world. His material body grows old and torments him in many ways. Again and again quarreling with wife and children, he is pushed so far that sometimes he even commits suicide. To get money he sometimes commits many sins. He suffers punishment from the king, the insults of his neighbors, and great variety of other troubles. He is separated from his loved ones, he loses his wealth, and he is robbed by thieves. Again and again he suffers many troubles. When he grows old his relatives refuse to care for him. This makes him suffer greatly. His old body is troubled by mucus, rheumatism, and host of other troubles. Finally he dies. Then he is again pushed into a mother's womb. Still, as long as he is alive in that material body, lust, anger, greed, delusion, pride, and envy remain very powerful and they refuse to give any place to intelligence. That is life in the material world. Now I know the meaning of the phrase "the material world". Again and again I offer my dandavat obeisances to the saintly babaji. It is the Vaishnavas who are the true spiritual teachers of the world. By the mercy of the Vaishnavas I have learned the truth about the material world.
After hearing the instructions of Ananta dasa Babaji, all the Vaishnavas called out, "Well done!" and began to chant the holy names of Lord Hari. Gradually many Vaishnavas gathered there. Then Lahiri Mahashaya sang a song he wrote:
e ghora samsare, padiya manava na paya duhkher shesh
sadhu-sanga kori, hari bhaja jadi, tabe anta hay klesh
"Fallen into the horrible material world, a person suffers without end. Still, of he associates with devotees and worships Lord Hari, a person will make his sufferings come to an end.
bishaya anale, jwaliche hridaya, anale bade anal
aparadha chadi' laya krishna-nama, anale padaye jal
"The heart burns in the fire of sense gratification. The fire burns more and more. Avoiding offenses, chant the holy names of Lord Krishna. That will pour water on the fire.
nitai chaitanya, carana-kamale, ashraya laila jei
kalidas bole jibane marane, amar ashray sei
"He who has taken shelter of the lotus feet of Lord Chaitanya and Lord Nityananda is my shelter in life and death. Thus says Kalidasa."
As these words were sung, Candi dasa began to dance with great joy. He happily rolled in the dust touched by the Vaishnava babajis' feet. He wept. Everyone said, "Candi dasa has become very fortunate."
After some time Yadava dasa Babaji said, "Come, Candi dasa, now we must cross the river." Candi dasa joked, “If you carry me across, I will cross." After offering dandavat obeisances to Pradyumna-kunja, the two of them left. There they saw Damayanti. Again and again offering dandavat obeisances, she said, "Alas! Why did I take birth as a woman? If I had taken birth as a man I could have easily entered this forest grove, seen the saintly devotees, touched the dust from their feet, and made my life a great success. Birth after birth I will serve the Vaishnavas in Shri Navadvipa. In that way I will pass my days."
Then Yadava dasa said, "Ah! Godruma is a very sacred place. Simply be entering this place, a soul attains pure devotion. This Godruma is the pastime place of the master of our lives: Lord Chaitanya, the son of Shaci. It is identical with holy Vrindavana, the village of cowherds. Understanding this truth, Shrila Prabodhananda Sarasvati wrote the following prayer (Shri Navadvipa-shataka 36):
avishya sanklishyata re vimudhah
hathena sarvam parihritya gaude
shri-godrume parna-kutim kurudhvam
"Fools, the path of the world and the Vedas will bring you only trouble! Give up everything and make yourself a leaf-hut in Shri Godruma in Gauda-desha!"
The three of them crossed the Ganga and returned to Kuliya-grama. From that day forward Candi dasa and his wife Damayanti became wonderful Vaishnavas. Understanding the truth about them, the illusory material world no longer touched them. Service to Vaishnavas, continual chanting of the holy name of Lord Krishna, and mercy to all living entities were the ornaments they wore. Glorious became that merchant couple! Glorious is the mercy of the Vaishnavas! Glorious is the holy name of Lord Hari! Glorious is the land of Shri Navadvipa!