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Questions & Answers
Shrila Prabhupada Answers Questions from his disciples
Question: Everything I know is based on my experience of this world. So how will I know about anything which is transcendental?
Shrila Prabhupada: It is true that in our present state it is very difficult for us to know about something which is transcendental. But it is also true that there is a way of knowing these things. If we have friends and relatives in a faraway place then a messenger will bring us their news.
Question: But the messenger does not come to everyone, does he?
Shrila Prabhupada: Those who are not visited by the messenger are very unfortunate. But there is one thing—you will see that the messenger will de?nitely bring the news to those who are really hankering for this news.
Question: How will we recognize the messenger from VaikuˆÊha? How will we know which message is true and which is not?
Shrila Prabhupada: If my prayer is sincere, then by the mercy of the omniscient God, everything will be revealed. One who wants to be educated will only come to know an educated person by the kindness of the latter. The Supreme Lord, who is in my heart, will help me in every way; all I have to do is depend on him.
In this world, there are two ways of gathering knowledge. One is to know things by experiencing them in this world. Another is to understand that the experience of this world is incomplete and insuf?cient. Therefore, to gather the knowledge which belongs to another world, we have to completely surrender ourselves to a saint who has descended from that world, and hear from him.
Question: Material experience is all we have. How can we give that up and surrender to something transcendental?
Shrila Prabhupada: We should not be afraid of it, thinking it will be very dif?cult. One has to have great strength of mind to know the truth. If one wants to learn to swim he must not be afraid of water. At the same time one should know that ÍaraˆRigati or the path of exclusive surrender is not a dif?cult thing. In fact it is very easy and natural for the soul. Anything which is opposed to it—that is unnatural and painful.
Question: How can we have such courage?
Shrila Prabhupada: We have to hear about the Supreme Lord from his own agent. When we hear those things then all material experience and the inclination to make false arguments have to be locked up. When we hear about the Supreme Lord from a living sRidhu who can deliver these talks in a bold, lively, inspiring way, then all weakness will disappear from our hearts, we will feel a kind of courage which was never there before, and the soul’s natural tendency to surrender to the Lord will fully manifest itself. In that surrendered heart the eternally manifested truth of the transcendental world will spontaneously reveal itself.
Question: Are the path of exclusive surrender and ?rm determination, the two very important things for us?
Shrila Prabhupada: Absolutely. One should have such ?rm determination also to worship the Lord—“I must receive his grace, I must not go astray. I must always go on chanting his name. God will undoubtedly help me, if I am a bona fide seeker.”
If one fully surrenders himself at the lotus feet of his Guru then he will de?nitely attain all success. The mercy of LrRi Gurudeva, who is non-different from LrRi RNpa, will be our only capital. Only that will be bene?cial for us.
Question: Can one worship Krishna without being under the guidance of Gurudeva?
Shrila Prabhupada: Never. Our only aim in life is to cultivate Krishna consciousness. This can only be done under the guidance or instruction of a devotee of Krishna. LrRi VRir›abhRinavRidevRi (LrRimati RRidhRirRiˆRi) is most favored by Krishna. Worshipping her is most favorable for worshipping Krishna. No one is more favorable than LrRi RRidhRi. Those who are very dear to LrRimati RRidhRirRiˆRi are all our spiritual masters. We the GauÎiya Vai›ˆavas are the worshippers of Krishna, who belongs to RRidhRirRiˆRi. The GauÎiya Vai›ˆavas are more on the side of RRidhRirRiˆRi than on the side of Krishna. LrRi Gurudeva is non-different from LrRimati RRidhRirRiˆRi.
Only by getting the favor of the most favored is it possible to cultivate Krishna-consciousness. When one is not under the guidance of the most favored, one will not ?nd anything favorable for the cultivation of Krishna consciousness or for the pursuit of Krishna’s happiness. Instead one will ?nd that one’s heart is dominated by the demoniac desire for one’s own happiness. One has to give up such tendencies, which are unfavorable for devotion, and one has to give up all pride and arrogance. A devotee can ?nd all opportunity to serve Krishna only when he wants to serve Krishna under the guidance of Gurudeva. But unfortunately we have forgotten to make any effort to make Krishna happy; instead we have become busy in pursuit of our own happiness.
Alas! Instead of making Krishna the head of our household, we are acting in the role of the householder and we have become attached to our family life. But if we want what is good for us then we have to become careful, while we are alive in this human body. Otherwise we will be deceived; we will miss our golden opportunity.
Question: Will it be more helpful if we become sannyRisRis?
Shrila Prabhupada: Never. The external garb of a sannyRisRi will not help anyone. If a devotee thinks that Gurudeva is his life and soul and serving Gurudeva is his life’s purpose, then he will become a real sannyRisRi. One has to become a devotee-sannyRisRi by being attached to Gurudeva and the holy name. But those who will not serve Krishna under the guidance of Gurudeva and will have bad association, will face disaster. They will never know the Supreme Lord, nor will they ever be able to serve him.
In this world it is possible to take the garb of a sRidhu and deceive other men. But the omniscient Lord, who is the giver of the result of karma, will not let them get away with it. Those who are taking the garb of a sRidhu and spending their time in bad association are only hurting themselves. Those who rely on others instead of relying on God face only misery.
Question: Whom does Krishna attract?
Shrila Prabhupada: The personality called “Krishna” attracts the three worlds. It is reality which attracts. Whom does Krishna attract? Magnets attract iron; they will not attract wood. Similarly the worshippable Lord attracts the servitors, who are eager to serve him, to worship him. The servitors are attracted by the charm of service. But on his path, if the servitor is distracted by something else, then this original attraction will evade him. On one side there is the attraction of the material world, which is the cause of all bondage; on the other side there is the attraction of Krishna, which is the cause of all bliss. In this world the objects of the senses—the form, the smell, the touch, the sounds of external objects—are very close to me. That is why I, the weak person, become attached to them. Under the circumstances, only if we can continuously hear about the Supreme Lord from Guru and sRidhu can we be protected from these nearby enemies. If we are not attracted by the lotus feet of Krishna then we will de?nitely be attracted by mRiyRi. When Krishna’s name, form and pastimes will attract us, we will get some relief from our present role as the enjoyer, as “Krishna”. The more we discuss topics of Krishna, the more we will get rid of this false identity of ourselves as the enjoyer. Then Krishna will really attract us.
Question: Why are we not feeling any closeness to Krishna?
Shrila Prabhupada: The living entity is constitutionally a servitor of the Supreme Lord. But if we do not always associate with the Lord and his devotees, and do not always serve them, then how can we feel close to the Lord? If we are busy with worldly matters then how can we hear the Lord? At present we are enchanted by false hopes, which have resulted in wrong judgement. Thus we are heavily preoccupied with this world. We have become subject to wrong judgement, because we have gone far away from the Original Fountainhead of our life. One who steps in quicksand will drown very quickly. Similarly that on which we are depending has a treacherous foundation, and that is why we are drowning in this material ocean. Instead of being on the path of Krishna we are spending our time in material endeavors, being possessed by wicked desires. Vi›ˆumRiyRi or the illusory energy of the Lord is imprisoning us by letting us become material enjoyers or fruitive workers. Therefore we should be cautious. We should know that we require guidance at every step. We should be extra careful. We need instruction at every step; we need the guidance of Gurudeva at every step.
Serving the devotees is more bene?cial for us than serving the Lord. The living entity is bene?tted more by associating with devotees than by associating with the Lord. The abode of a devotee, meaning the abode of Gurudeva, is more favorable for pure devotional service than the abode of the Lord. LrRila Bhaktivinode †hRikura has said “yethRiya vai›ˆava-gaˆa sei sthRina vÂndRivana” (“Where Vai›ˆavas are living—that place is VÂndRivana”) and we have to try to understand the full meaning of these words. But if we become indifferent to the service of Gurudeva, then we cannot become servitors. We will remain proud and arrogant. We will remain entangled in external thoughts.
There is no higher thought in the theistic world than service at the lotus feet of LrRi-LrRi RRidhRi-Govinda. Therefore we have to constantly hear Hari-kathRi, so we will not be deprived from the service of the Lord, who is Adhok›aja or beyond the senses; so we will not become dependent on our senses and on the path of false logic. We have to pay great attention to devotional service, because we have spent many lifetimes doing these other things. We have to become very mindful so we can fu?ll our greatest necessity in this very life. If a devotee always serves Guru and Krishna with great care, with great attachment and love, then he will de?nitely feel Krishna’s association.
Question: Why is there so much misery in this world?
Shrila Prabhupada: The Supreme Lord is saying, “I have arranged so much misery, so much pain, so much trouble and danger, not to make you suffer, but to teach you that all this misery is unnecessary; so you will search for the happiness that is eternally desirable, the joy that is eternally adorable.
Question: Why are trivial talk and gossip (grRimya-kathRi) unfavorable for devotion and harmful for us?
Shrila Prabhupada: LrRiman MahRiprabhu has said, “Do no hear grRimya-kathRi and do not speak grRimya-kathRi. Do not eat sumptuous food and do not wear fancy clothes.” He said those words for those who are very attached to devotional service. If one eats sumptuous food one only harms oneself. This does not create any problem for others; it does not cause any disturbance in anyone else’s devotional life. But it is much more harmful to wear fancy clothes. People wear fancy clothes only for the sake of others. How for the sake of others? The only purpose behind wearing fancy clothes is to distract others’ eyes and mind from devotional service to the Supreme Lord. It is also not bene?cial to indulge the tongue. “If one runs here and there to satisfy his tongue, then such a tongue-indulgent person does not attain Krishna.” MahRiprabhu also said this. If one hears grRimya-kathRi, one hurts oneself more than by eating sumptuous food, and if one speaks grRimya-kathRi, one hurts others more than by wearing fancy clothes. LrRila RaghunRith DRis GoswRimRi said that to hear or speak harmful things (things which are untrue, gossip, things which are distasteful or things which are very trivial) is the same as associating with a prostitute. Such talk distracts the mind and contaminates the consciousness, and thus creates a great obstacle to devotional service. You should know that those who are attached to such talk automatically will be unattracted by Hari-kathRi.
If ?ve ordinary people get together then invariably they will talk about trivial things. This is why devotees constantly talk about the Supreme Lord. Where there is hari-kathRi, there no one gets a chance to gossip or talk about trivial things.
Question: What is the process for attaining happiness?
Shrila Prabhupada: When a devotee is ?rmly situated at the lotus feet of his Gurudeva, then he gets Gurudeva’s association, through his service. Then he gets relief from fear and grief and becomes really happy. If one is always engaged in the service of Gurudeva, with body, mind, and soul, then one soon attains the mercy of Gurudeva. When Gurudeva is pleased then one’s inclination to serve Gurudeva increases day by day. This is the highest bene?t and the only desirable thing.
Question: What is devotion?
Shrila Prabhupada: To endeavor for the happiness of the Supreme Lord—that is devotion. When on has devotion then the only thing which has any meaning, any signi?cance for him, is Krishna’s happiness. A devotee never seeks his own happiness. This is the soul’s natural inclination. When the living entity ?nds his real identity, then he sees that his eternal and spontaneous tendency is to seek Krishna’s happiness. In his real identity, he has no other business. The mundane, inferior urges are not the property of the soul; they are not the property of the real person, but the property of the perverse person. That is why these urges change all the time; they are temporary. Only devotion gives relief from fear, illusion, and grief. Fear, illusion, and grief originate from a second interest, interest in things other than Krishna. Devotion has only one root, one purpose, one shelter, one destination. Devotion means sole attachment for the Lord, undivided attention to Krishna.
Question: Does God interfere with the independence of the living entity?
Shrila Prabhupada: The living entity is a minute particle of the in?nite transcendental consciousness, the Supreme Lord. The property of the body of water which is the ocean is also present in a drop of water. The Supreme Lord is completely independent; the living entity, who is a minute particle of consciousness, also has minute independence. The living entity is not a created thing; it is eternal. The living entity is not part of matter; it is part of consciousness. The independence of the living entity is not given to him by somebody on this plane. Independence exists automatically in the soul of the living entity. It is by misusing this independence that the living entity is suffering. God does not interfere with anyone’s independence. He is not a killer of consciousness. The Supreme Lord is an ocean of mercy. That is why he just lets the conscious souls know what is good use and what is bad use of their properties deriving from consciousness. One who worships the Lord according to those instructions which come from Him and the scriptures uses his independence in the proper way, and he is supremely bene?tted.
Question: What is mRiyRi (the illusory energy)?
Shrila Prabhupada: MRiyate anayRi iti mRiyRi. That which can be measured is mRiyRi. MRi + yRi = mRiyRi. That which is not, is mRiyRi. What is temporary and destructible is mRiyRi. What is not centered on BhagavRin is mRiyRi. BhagavRin is the controller of mRiyRi; he cannot be measured. According to Christianity, the Lord is one entity, and Satan is a separate entity. But the mRiyRi which is described in the LrRimad BhRigavatam is not like that. According to the BhRigavat school, mRiyRi resides in the Supreme Lord in a condemned state; mRiyRi is a part of Krishna. It exists to correct those living entities who are averse to Krishna, by punishing them.
Question: How are we to live in this material world?
Shrila Prabhupada: If a man is tied to a rod and beaten, then he will be forced to suffer the beating, but that is not his real desire. Similarly we have to live in this world in a spirit of rejection. Otherwise, misery and disaster will be unavoidable.
Question: Who will be delivered from this material world?
Shrila Prabhupada: If one gives one hundred percent then the Lord will de?nitely deliver him. If the association of the sRidhus and Guru, service to the sRidhus and Guru, does not become an integral part of our life, then this desire to give one hundred percent does not arise within us. On the other hand, it is not possible to attain the Lord who is complete, unless one completely dedicates himself. God is complete and perfect. He wants what is complete and perfect—complete love, complete surrender. The complete can be attained only by giving completely. One receives according to what one gives.
Question: To whom does God not reveal himself?
Shrila Prabhupada: God is in?nite consciousness and the living entity is minute consciousness. If someone wants to keep back some part of this minute consciousness, if someone thinks, “I do not want to give God all of it,” then the in?nite consciousness does not want to reveal himself to that person.
Question: If I serve Krishna, according to my liking, is that devotion?
Shrila Prabhupada: No. To serve Krishna according to His liking is devotion. What I like is a reflection of my material desire; that is not devotion. This is why I cannot be an enjoyer, nor can I be a renunciate; I have to become a devotee. I have to give up my independence, take shelter in him, and take great care to make him happy.
Question: Why are we not making any progress in our bhajan?
Shrila Prabhupada: How is that possible? We are occupied only in dealing with the external world. That is why external thoughts, thoughts of the material world, are dominating us. It is necessary to look inside, instead of looking outside or looking for objects of sense grati?cation. Are we not supposed to be extremely eager to serve the Lord who is residing in our heart? But we are not doing that; so how can we make progress in our bhajan? Is it possible to make any progress in our bhajan if we are eager to increase our own comfort or to improve the comfort of our family? How can we have any enthusiasm or eagerness to serve our eternal friends—Krishna and Guru—when we are enthusiastically busy to make those robbers who are known as our friends and relatives happy? It is not possible to go towards the East when we are walking towards the West. I am saying so many things, yet people’s illusion, that those who are far from them are actually close to them, is not going away. It is their destiny to be miserable. So, what can I do?
Question: What is the dharma (property or characteristic) of prRiti (love or affection)?
Shrila Prabhupada: The characteristics of prRiti and aprRiti (absence of affection) are never the same. The property of the soul is the property of prRiti and the property of the mind is the property of aprRiti. There is no con?ict between the dharma of prema (love), the dharma of bhakti (devotion), the supreme dharma, the dharma prescribed in the BhRigavat, and the dharma of sevRi (service). There is harmony in all that. Only when we fall from the practice of this loving devotion do we think of each other as objects of exploitation. Humans can have no problems when they know every human being to be a servitor of Krishna. Then a person can realize that he is a Vai›ˆava. Then the spontaneous affection of one Vai›ˆava for another automatically awakens in his heart. Nowhere in this world does this prRiti dharma exist; everywhere there is the dharma of con?ict, which is full of the ?ghting propensity.
Question: How does a devotee see this world?
Shrila Prabhupada: A mahRibhRigavat sees the whole world as the mercy of the Supreme Lord. Mercy is something to be worshiped. We cannot be the masters of this mercy, nor can we control it. If we think of this world as an object of our enjoyment instead of seeing it as an object of Krishna’s enjoyment or as a manifestation of Krishna’s mercy, then we have to be punished for that, we have to face some misery.
Question: What kind of ?rm faith should we have in the lotus feet of LrRi Gurudeva?
Shrila Prabhupada: A true disciple knows his Gurudeva to be someone who is extremely dear to Krishna, who is sent by Krishna, and who is the Servitor Lord (Sevaka BhagavRin). A sincere disciple has the same devotion for his Gurudeva that he has for the Supreme Lord. And he worships and serves him the same way. Those who do not serve their Gurudeva this way fall from their position as a disciple. No one can chant the holy name purely unless they see Gurudeva as non-different from Krishna, as Krishna’s manifestation.
I shall serve LrRi LrRi Guru and GaurRi/ga with simplicity and sincerity under the guidance of Gurudeva. My Gurudeva has the words of the Supreme Lord, and I will be obedient to that word in the proper way. I will not disrespect my Gurudeva under the in?uence of anyone in this world. If I have to become proud, if I have to become a beast, if I have to go to hell, by carrying out the order of Gurudeva who is sent by Krishna, then I want to sign a contract to go to hell for all eternity. I will not listen to anything anybody says, other than the order of my Gurudeva. By the power that has come to me from the lotus feet of Gurudeva, I will throw out all other currents of consciousness of the world with a punch of my ?st. If a throw a particle of dust from the pollen of the lotus feet of LrRi Gurudeva, then millions of people of this world will be delivered. There is no scholarship, there is no good concept in the fourteen worlds that is heavier than a particle of dust from the lotus feet of my Gurudeva. A true disciple will have this kind of ?rm faith and determination.
Question: To be MahRiprabhu’s associate and to be His devotee—is this the same thing?
Answer: No. One who is His associate is called His “Sa/gi”. “Sa/gi” means one who goes with Him everywhere. Those who do not associate with Him all the time cannot be called His “Sa/gis” or associates. At the same time LrRi Narottama DRisa hRikura was MahRiprabhu’s associate, even though he did not appear when MahRiprabhu manifested Himself. But Narottama DRisa hRikura descended to this world only to ful?ll MahRiprabhu’s desire. He is eternally engaged in MahRiprabhu’s service; in his heart MahRiprabhu’s desires manifest themselves. Narottama DRisa hRikura nurtures the mood of intimate service. Therefore he is an eternally liberated associate of MahRiprabhu.
Question: The following is considered to be the most signi?cant verse of the Bhagavad-gRitRi:
mRim eka˜ Íaraˆa˜ vraja
aha˜ tvRi˜ sarva-pRipebhyo
mok›ayi›yRimi mRi ÍucaÓ
“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.” But MahRiprabhu said of this verse, “eho bRihya”—this is also external. Why is that?
Answer: Yes, MahRiprabhu said to RRiya RRimRinanda Prabhu that even this great verse was only external. Devotional love for the Supreme Lord is the natural inclination of the soul. So the Supreme Lord should not have to canvass for Himself. He should not have to coax us to love Him. He should not have to somehow persuade us to become His devotee. He should not have to make us promise to love Him. His devotees naturally engage themselves wholeheartedly to make Him happy, due to their spontaneous, uncontrollable love for Him.
If a father has to take great trouble to make his son love Him, then everyone can understand what kind of son he has. It is only natural that the devotee will automatically, following his heart’s desire, serve his Lord. But in this situation it seems that the opposite is happening. Not only has the devotee forgotten his Lord, but he has forgotten his own eternal identity. Being forgetful of his eternal existence, he has become the master of the temporary, and he is serving the temporary. This is why MahRiprabhu said of this great verse that it is external: to teach us about pure devotion—the supreme devotion belonging to Vraja DhRima.
Question: Is MahRiprabhu’s mercy the highest mercy?
Answer: Of course. There is no one more merciful than MahRiprabhu and His devotees. The help or bene?t which has come from them is the real help. Any other proposal of help is actually very deceiving, and a great disservice. But the relief, the help, which comes from MahRiprabhu and His devotees, is really the supreme and eternal help. This relief does not last only for a few days. It is not that kind of help which will soon create some bad side effect, some unfavorable reaction. It is not that kind of help which will be favorable to some and unfavorable to others. We can do something good for our country, but that may have a bad effect on another country. I might get some happiness at the expense of someone else’s misery. Someone else may enjoy something which will create a lack in my life. I may bene?t by riding in a horse-drawn coach, but this will de?nitely create discomfort for the horses. MahRiprabhu and His devotees did not deceive mankind by proposing such means of relief. The relief which they have recommended, the gift which they have bestowed, will be supremely bene?cial to all people at all times. This relief is for the whole universe. Therefore it is not narrow-minded help. MahRiprabhu and His devotees were never interested in any kind of relief which was narrow-minded, sectarian and temporary. No bad reaction ever comes to anyone from MahRiprabhu’s mercy. This is why MahRiprabhu’s mercy is called ‘AmandodayRi’—the faultless mercy. This is why we say MahRiprabhu is supremely magnanimous, and His devotees are even more magnanimous. This is not ?ction, this is reality.
MahRiprabhu’s mercy is perfect and unlimited. Everyone else’s mercy is limited and therefore deceiving. All other incarnations, such as Matsyadeva, Kurmadeva, VarRihadeva, RRimacandra, and even Lord Krishna Himself only bestowed their supreme mercy on the surrendered souls. But They all annihilated the opposing party. Only MahRiprabhu distributed his mercy even to the opposing party. He did not hesitate to bestow his faultless mercy on the KRizi, the Buddhists, and others.
Question: Shall we always tell the unadulterated truth?
Answer: Absolutely. We will fearlessly tell everyone the truth, without deceiving anyone. We have to speak the kind of truth that is truly bene?cial for the living being, even if it is unpleasant. This is not the same as creating anxiety for others (“bhutodvega”). We have to search for reality. We have to think about the good of all people in the world. We have to do what is bene?cial for ourselves and others with great determination. We have to try to work not just for the welfare of the people of this age, but for the eternal bene?t of people of every era. We have to tell everyone about that joyful abode of the Lord, the land of the in?nite, from which no one has to come back. But to tell others about that transcendental world it is absolutely necessary for us to get the shelter of the lotus feet of the spiritual master.
We will always serve LrRi Gurudeva, who is the giver of transcendental knowledge. If we live in our own house then we should serve him together with all our family members. We will keep the Lord and His devotees in nice houses, and we ourselves will live in simple quarters or in thatched cottages. If we feed the Lord without feeding ourselves, then we will de?nitely receive His mercy.
We must think at all times, “Everything belongs to the Lord.” Our lives will be successful if we can use everything in the world in the service of the Lord. All these concepts have to be preached by ?rst following them oneself. LrRi-LrRi Guru and GaurRi/ga will not be pleased until we can speak the truth fearlessly.
If I am afraid that if I tell the truth objectively, it may become unpleasant, and so I do not speak the truth, then that means I have given up the path of revealed truth and I have accepted a path which is not bona ?de; then I am an atheist and a cheater.
Question: Who is attached to household life?
Answer: One who thinks of oneself as a man or woman is attached to household life. Such a person is an illusioned householder (“gÂhavrata”). The illusioned householder is greedy for money, relations with the opposite sex, and name and fame (“kanaka, kRiminRi, prati›ÊhRi”). One who has the tendency to enjoy these three things is an illusioned householder or “gÂhavrata”.
A gÂhavrata thinks, “I need others to serve me. The goal of my life is to be the owner of my household and to gratify my senses in any way I like.”
We are living on the level of consciousness centered on the body. We are pretending to be masters, by becoming gÂhavratas. We are getting into trouble by looking at this world through the eyes of enjoyment. Until we have the proper intelligence to see that the whole world is meant to serve the Lord, we will remain on the level of the illusioned householder; we will never know about our real bene?t. Those who resolve to take the path of enjoyment or the path of complete renunciation lose everything. They never get to know the Supreme Lord.
By depending on this temporary world one can only get misery and death. Actual death and the suffering of the three-fold miseries result from a materialistic lifestyle which is averse to Krishna.
All the thoughts and efforts of this material world are actually leading to death. The gÂhavrata does not think, “These kinds of thoughts and tendencies are taking me to hell day by day, and they can only give me more and more misery, now and in the future.”
Question: How should one live in one’s house?
Answer: One can destroy his tendency to fall into the dark pit of materialistic household life by having the bene?cial association of the great saints. Only by associating with liberated souls does one achieve the quali?cations to become a transcendental householder (“pRiramRirthika gÂhastha”). Those who do not associate with the devotee bhRigavata (the Lord residing in His devotee) and the book bhRigavata (the Lord residing in the scripture BhRigavat), which are non-different, cannot have a bene?cial life, living in their own homes.
It is good to live in one’s own house with the desire to serve the Lord; then one can serve the Lord properly. But this is not possible for the illusioned householder attached to money, the opposite sex, and name and fame. One should enter into his house resolving to serve Krishna. That is much better than false renunciation. Nothing good can come from false renunciation. If one’s household life is favorable for devotional service then that is acceptable; on the contrary, if it is unfavorable for devotional service, then such a deep, dark pit called “home” should be given up. But if one wants to show off his desire for renunciation and shows some detachment then that is not bene?cial. Such an immature renunciate will fall from his position in a few days.
The tendencies of the illusioned householders can only be destroyed by associating with the devotees of the Lord. Those who enter into household life following the rules of the external world will be more and more absorbed in the illusioned condition. Just as the devotees of the Lord need to enter into the sannyRisa RiÍrama (the lifestyle of a renunciate), in the same way they need to enter into the gÂhastha RiÍrama (the lifestyle of a householder). The festival known as “gÂhapraveÍa” (entering a house for the ?rst time) should be celebrated only by a devotee householder, not a non-devotee householder. When a devotee enters his house we should know that he has actually entered his maÊh. For a devotee, there is no difference between entering his house and entering a maÊh. But there is a heaven-and-hell difference between a devotee’s entering his house and a non-devotee’s entering his house.
One should enter one’s house only to always engage oneself in the service and thoughts of Krishna, and to have everything favorable for that. The householder should always stay away from bad association and gossip. He should nurture with great care such qualities as enthusiasm, determination, and patience, and such devotional practices as hearing and chanting (“Íravana-kRirtana”). To serve Hari, Guru, and Vai›ˆava, to chant LrRi NRima, to associate with the sRidhus, and to hear about the Lord are the essential duties of householders. If all their endeavors are directed toward the service of the Lord, then they will de?nitely bene?t, they will be protected and their lives will be ful?lled.
Question: When something happens, how should we perceive it?
Answer: If you see it from the other side, from Krishna’s side, then you will see that everything is all right. But if you see it from this side, from your own or someone else’s controlling position, then everything will be topsy-turvy.
So to see things from the other side is to take knowledge from the descending path, the path of revealed truth. This is to see things through a deductive process. This is the proper perspective. But to take knowledge from the ascending path, to see things through an inductive process, is to see things with a calculating mentality. The we do not see the Lord as the controller. We think we are the controllers and see everything with that egotistical vision. The result of this is misery.
Question: When a devotee is born in a family, does that family bene?t from his or her birth?
Answer: When a great saint, a pure devotee, appears in a family, then his ancestors and descendants for a hundred generations each are elevated. When a devotee of the middle stature (madhyama bhRigavata) appears in a family, then his ancestors and descendants for fourteen generations each are elevated. When a neophyte devotee appears in a family, then his ancestors and descendants for three generations each are elevated.
Question: Why are devotees sometimes born in low-class families? If devotees are not subject to the results of their actions (karma) then why are they sometimes illiterate or disease-ridden?
Answer: Devotees are never subject to the result of their karma. It is by the will of the Lord that they take birth and perform other pastimes. But when it is seen that they are born in low-class families, are illiterate, or are disease-ridden, we should know that there is a great or noble purpose behind it. If people saw that devotees were always born in high-class families or were always strong or educated, then they would become discouraged. So the merciful Lord, in order to bene?t people of all classes, sends His devotees to different classes of society to give His mercy to other living entities. This is something like catching a wild male elephant by sending a trained female elephant. LrRila VÂndRivana DRisa hRikura has said in the Chaitanya BhRigavat that a Vai›ˆava delivers everyone just by taking birth. In a land and in a family where a Vai›ˆava descends, many hundreds of miles around that place become puri?ed by his in?uence. Even if you see some external misery in a Vai›ˆava’s life, you should know that he is in great ecstasy. Those who are blinded by pride in their material possessions do not know any of these things. Intoxicated with pride in their education, money, and family, they do not recognize a Vai›ˆava.
If a devotee appears in a low-class family, then we should not think that it is a result of his sin, that he was subject to the result of his action. Rather, we should know that he has puri?ed a low-class family. If a good person becomes successful only in the devotional process, then we should consider him a great soul.
Question: Where there is Hari-kRirtan, is that considered to be DhRima (a holy place)?
Answer: I cannot think of the places where devotees of the Lord reside or congregate and always chant and discuss the holy name and pastimes of the Lord as anything other than LrRi DhRima. These places are partial manifestations of the eternal holy DhRimas. LrRi Vi›ˆu is residing in the heart of every living soul, in every atom. Thus every place is LrRi DhRima. The day the mercy of LrRi Gurudeva is manifest in one’s heart, one achieves this kind of vision.
Question: What is the difference between weakness and deceitfulness or hypocrisy?
Answer: Weakness is one thing and deceitfulness is another thing. They are not the same. Good things happen only to a person free from deceitfulness. A deceitful person does not get any bene?t. Another name for straightforwardness is “Vai›ˆavatRi” or the quality of a Vai›ˆava. A straightforward person can be weak, but he is not deceitful. A person who is deceitful says one thing and thinks another. A weak person is always ashamed, sorry, and morti?ed because of his own inadequacies, but a deceitful person is proud of his own tricks.
“I will deceive the richRirya; I will fool the doctor; I will hide the poisonous snakes of my bad tendencies in the dark recess of hypocrisy, I will not let anyone know about them—but I will get some name and fame from other people by pretending to be saintly,”—this kind of mentality is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of terrible deceitfulness. Such people will never bene?t. One gradually receives the grace of God by listening to the pure words of a sRidhu in a humble, sincere mood. If we put on the garb of a devotee and become busy with non-devotional activities, if we are absorbed in material enjoyment and that becomes a priority, or if we take the tridaˆÎa and want to kidnap SRitRi, like RRivana, then we are stabbing ourselves to death. We are doing something terrible in the name of Hari-bhajana. If for millions of births we have some weakness, some bad habits, that is not so harmful. But if once we take to the path of deceitfulness—we pretend to be devotees, but secretly engage in sinful enjoyment—then all troubles will remain with us. It is better to take birth among millions of other species, as a bird or a beast or an insect. To take the path of deceitfulness is never good.
Question: Is it proper to think of a non-devotee as a devotee?
Answer: No. LrRi Gurudeva is NRimRichRirya; he is LrRinRima-kRirtana-kRiri (the chanter of the holy name). One who is an offender to the holy name should not be considered Guru. A bona ?de Guru does not make provision for anyone’s sense grati?cation, nor does he say anything with the purpose of pleasing anyone. One who is on the path of pleasure does not like the words of those who are on the path of the highest goal. Such people are in search of something pleasing to them; that is why they are deprived of what is really bene?cial.
To think of a non-devotee as a devotee and to think of false devotion as devotion is only self-deception. When one does not have the good fortune of serving or honoring a devotee, then he has this desire to accept a non-devotee as a devotee. But can a crow become a peacock by attaching some peacock feathers to its body? Can a disguised jackal become a lion, the king of beasts? How long can this deceitful trick be covered up? The truth will always be manifest. Those who serve Krishna are not weak; only they are strong and determined. Only by one’s good fortune can one understand that the highest thing is devotional service to Krishna, that the great person is a servitor of Krishna. Due to attachment to the external, one can admire someone’s petty pride in money, or insigni?cant pride in education, or meaningless pride in beauty, and then one one will be in great danger due to one’s indifference to the service and servitor of Krishna.
Question: Are sin and offense the same?
Answer: No. One commits sin by disobeying the rules of human society, but one commits offense by showing disrespect to the lotus feet of Vi›ˆu and Vai›ˆava. Offense is a million times more dangerous than sin. Sin can be destroyed by atonement, but offense cannot be destroyed that way. Only by taking the all-bene?cial names of LrRi-LrRi Gaura-NityRinanda, the friends of the fallen, can one make offense go away.
Question: Is anger towards someone who is malicious to devotees a part of devotion?
Answer: We have to be angry at someone who is malicious to devotees; that is part of our devotional practice. To do otherwise is improper. But who is malicious to devotees? That concept has to be very clear. Those who do not serve the Supreme Lord, Who is the friend of the whole world, Who is supremely joyful, and Who is in the heart of everyone, cannot do anything good for themselves; rather they invite danger and inauspiciousness by being malicious to Krishna and His devotees. Those are the ones who are malicious; we cannot show mercy to them. We have to show our indifference or anger to those who are intoxicatedly absorbed in the worship of akÂ›ˆa (non-God). But ?rst of all I have to see if I myself am an enemy of the devotees. It is essential to ask, am I serving Krishna or am I doing something else in the pretense of devotional service, how much love do I have for Krishna, do I want to cheat Krishna, and do I want to enjoy what is meant for His enjoyment?
I see that I, with my body which is greedy for enjoyment, am a great enemy of Krishna and His devotees. Instead of always remembering the lotus feet of Krishna and thinking of His happiness I am engaged in the search for my own happiness, in gossip and fault-?nding. I am not looking at myself at all; I am not seeing my own fault. Therefore, ?rst of all I have to express anger at myself—I who am such a great enemy of the devotees. I have to show anger to myself by beating my mind with a pair of shoes. I have to purify myself. I have to try in every way to have an exemplary character and to sincerely serve Hari, Guru, and Vai›ˆavas. Only then will I bene?t. I have to constantly remember that everyone is serving the Lord; only I could not serve the Lord and I may die at any moment.
?rst of all I have to express anger towards my bad tendencies that are unfavorable for devotion, such as desire for material gain, prestige, and position, and my tendencies towards deceitfulness. This way I have to control them. I have to look at my own interest ?rst. Otherwise great danger will come my way. Then I have to express anger towards my friends and relatives, related to my body, who are against Guru and Krishna, who want to see me as an enjoyer and thus are attracting me to mRiyRi. Only then will I be safe and the highest good will come to me, not otherwise.
Question: Who is Guru?
Answer: One who can protect me from the death that is this material life, is Guru. One who can protect me from the fear of death, is Guru. One by going to whom I do not have to go to anyone else, by listening to whom I do not have to listen to anyone else, is Guru. The reservoir of grace whom the Supreme Lord, the personi?cation of the supreme good, has made responsible for looking after my welfare, is my Guru. One by whose grace I can get rid of my controlling ego, is Guru. One who brings the revealed truth to us, who by showering us with such truth can make us humbler than a blade of grass and more tolerant than a tree, is Guru. One who makes us respectful to others without having any desire for respect from others, who can manifest transcendental kRirtan in our mouths by transferring his own potency, who himself is the personi?cation of the potency of the Lord, is Guru. Only the lotus feet of LrRi Guru can free us from the shackles of illusion.
One who gives me the transcedental knowledge that all the people of the world are respectable and worshipable by me, that the whole world is meant for service to Guru and everyone is my Guru, that I am a servitor of Krishna, and that service to Krishna is my only duty, is LrRi Guru.
Excerpts translated from the Bengali book:
PrabhupRida, LrRila BhaktisiddhRinta SaraswatRi †hRikura. LrRila PrabhupRider UpadeÍRimrta (Nectar of LrRila PrabhupRida’s Instructions), collected by TridaˆÎi SwRimRi LrRimad Bhakti Mayukha BhRigavata MahRirRija, LrRi Chaitanya MaÊha, 1990.