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Totalitarian War Against Illusion
By Shrila Bhakti Rakshak Shridhara Goswami
Just before Shrila Prabhupada’s ascent into the divine domain he called Shridhar Maharaja to his side to hear from his heart the song Shri Rupa Manjari Pada. Shrila Bhakti Promode Puri Maharaja observed that Prabhupada gave Shridhar Maharaja entrance into the group of Shri Rupa. Shrila Prabhupada once remarked, “I may be leaving this world, but at least there is one man who remains behind who can represent my siddhanta, and that man is Shridhar Maharaja. He is carrying the conception of Bhaktivinode Thakur.”
There are so many brahmanas and karma-kandis (fruitive religionists) who will offensively consider that the Vaishnavas are inferior because they have not received the sacred thread; those Brahmanas, etc., must be saved. Also, a person who is taking the Name may think that Brahmanas are superior and the chanter of the Name holds a lesser position.
His abhimana or ego must also be helped to go higher: “Yes, I am said to be more than a Brahmana, so I shall have to become very careful about my movements, my eating and other practices.” This will help him to know that he must not go below the standard of an ordinary purificatory section. At the same time, society will also be warned to deal properly with these persons who are taking the Name of Hari, by conceiving that they are exclusively given to the chanting of the Name of Hari and are therefore superior to a Brahmana. This system was introduced by our Guru Maharaja, Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Prabhupada. He conferred the sacred thread extensively.
That is to give the position of a Brahmana, outwardly. In calculation from the inner side, a Vaishnava is above a Brahmana. But from the outer side also he created this particular society in which a Vaishnava who is exclusively given to Krishna consciousness must be recognized as not less, but more than a Brahmana. He reformed the society to establish the position of the Vaishnava, thus also encouraging him: “You must not go down; you are taking the Name of Hari, exclusively given to Krishna consciousness, and you must maintain your position in the external way so that even the Brahmanas or the Vedic school will feel some reverence for the position you hold. You must be cautious in your dealings and in your practices; and also the society will think, ‘Don’t underestimate these persons who are exclusively given to Krishna consciousness.’” In this way, he reformed society.
Although Mahaprabhu had not introduced this, our Guru Maharaja, adjusted the society to bring Mahaprabhu’s teachings to the world in a broad way.
Previously, Rupa, Sanatana and followers did not care to take any sacred thread. Also, in the sannyasa system of the Varnashrama, Shankara and others give up the sacred thread to the fire when they take sannyasa, showing that they have no necessity of a sacred thread; they’re above that, above Brahmana. Yet their creed is ‘we are one with Brahman’ - and here is the infinite difference. The higher a Vaishnava is, the more he will say “I am the slave of Krishna, and the slave of the slaves of the slaves of Krishna.” But the Mayavadis identify themselves with the highest Entity. They have fallen prey to complete misconception of the Revealed Scriptures of Veda. This is the position.
The preaching mission of Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, the Gaudiya Matha, has declared totalitarian war against maya, illusion, and even all other existing conceptions of religion. And our authority is Shrimad-Bhagavatam and Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Divine love is the supreme most goal of every soul. Beauty and love is the summum bonum, our highest attainment; that is the ultimate controlling principle, and not power. And beauty and love are found at their highest position in Krishna in Vrindavana. The ultimate conception of the Absolute Truth is that of reality the beautiful and divine love. At the same time, the difference between lust and love should be clearly realized. That should not be misconceived. The acme of dedication is demonstrated in the love of the inhabitants of Vraja.
Preaching (sankirtana), and not counting beads (japa), is the real service of Krishna. But because we have taken a vow, and it is ordered by Mahaprabhu and our gurudeva, we must chant the holy name while counting beads; it is our duty. Our guru maharaja told us, “The japa beads must not fast.” So, if we engage ourselves in preaching work, there should be no doubt that we are really obeying the order of Mahaprabhu. Although he has advised us to chant one hundred thousand names, or sixty-four rounds daily, that is a provincial saying. What is really all-important is the spirit of service. We are not told that the gopis always count the name on tulasi beads, yet they possess the highest position in the service of Krishna in Vrindavana.
Like Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu, our guru maharaja wanted to attack maya and, like a great general, he declared totalitarian war on illusion and even all other existing conceptions of religion. “Why is there this misunderstanding and misconception?” he thought, “Everything belongs to Krishna: ishavasyam idam sarvam. It is plain and simple and sweet. How can we think, ‘This is for me, that is for Him?’ Why should we let this misconception stand here at all? Attack it - and crush the whole thing!”
He told us, “Kirtana means to preach against misconception. As soldiers, you must go door to door and preach Krishna consciousness - Krishna’s interest - the Krishna conception. If they understand that everything is for Krishna, they will be saved. This truth is plain and simple. Why should they not understand this? Try to capture them, to release them from the world of misconception and misunderstanding where they are now suffering from reaction.”
In this way, we are not afraid of anything. A Vaishnava who loved solitary life once asked our guru maharaja, “Why do you stay at Calcutta? That is the place of Satan, where fighting for selfish interest is so acute. Leave that - come to the holy dhama.” But Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura especially chose that place, saying, “I prefer to represent Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s creed in an extremely contaminated place.” For this reason, he wanted to send men to the West. “The East is captured by the glamour of Western civilization,” he said, “so Western civilization must first be crushed. Then, its glamour will vanish and the whole world will come to join the campaign of divine love of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.” This was the same spirit with which Nityananda Prabhu canvassed the fallen souls of this world, in His attempt to take them to the lotus feet of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura once instructed a disciple at the time of initiation into the Hare Krishna mantra that Krishna should be allowed to land in our hearts, just as an army is landed by the navy. An army is carried by a ship, and when they have landed, the fight begins, and they capture the country, just as Julius Caesar said, “Veni vidi vici, I came, I saw, I conquered.” So, we have to allow Krishna to land in our hearts. Then the fight will begin.
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura emphasized that kirtana means not only loudly singing the holy name, but preaching. Jiva Goswami has given a definition of sankirtana, bahubhir militva yat kirtanam tad eva sankirtanam: “When many people come together and glorify the Supreme Lord, Krishna, it is known as sankirtana.” Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu came and introduced sankirtana. In this age of Kali, if the holy name is chanted congregationally, the combined efforts will be fruitful (sango shakti kalau yuge). There is the difference between the preaching mission of Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, and the so-called bhajana of the sahjiyas, or imitationists.
Once, one of our Godbrothers was the subject of our guru maharaja’s stern remark. He was a man of good character, but his tendency was generally towards nama bhajana. He did not like to do any other service, but was only inclined to chant the name of Krishna on his beads. I was in charge of the Delhi temple at the time, and was intimate with him, so I wrote to Prabhupada: “If you permit, I would like to engage my Godbrother in some preaching work here in the Delhi temple.” The letter that Prabhupada wrote is still here. He wrote me in his letter, “If you can bring him there and make him help you in the work of preaching, then you will be doing the service of a real friend to him. I don’t recognize that sitting in the jungle of Balihati only chanting, counting beads, is krishnanushilanam, the proper cultivation of Krishna consciousness.”
Our guru maharaja laid the highest stress on developing a serving attitude. Otherwise it is all bogus, all imitation. And people will say, “Oh, there is no Krishna there. These men are hypocrites. They are only dancing and making noise, they are not surcharged with a serving spirit.” Only through service can we directly come in contact with Krishna. The real point is to practice how to attain the spirit of service, vaishnava seva. The Vaishnava is doing service, and we must imbibe from him the methods of attaining this serving attitude.
Sevonmukhe, serving attitude was foremost. Our Guru Maharaja did not allow us to read much, even of the lower types of scriptures dealing with general sadhana or practices, not to speak of the higher books. Rather, we were expected to actually follow those practices by hearing from the proper source and practicing accordingly whatever was instructed from there. Serving - learn to give yourself properly. There are different methods of service: shravana, hearing; kirtana, chanting; smarana, remembering; vandana, praying, etc.. Shrila Rupa Goswami has mentioned sixty-four kinds of devotional practices, and it has also been further mentioned that there are one thousand types of devotional practices. But practices are not very important; the very life of the practice is all-important, for this is self-dedication. This we should be very particular to learn that dedication is work under a Vaishnava.
Sevonmukhata, serving attitude, means what? One day, during the latter days of his presence in the world, our Guru Maharaja Shrila Prabhupada said to a certain sannyasi who had led a full twenty years of life in the mission, “You did not see me - you could not see who I am. Like a zamindar you have kept some householder servitors under you, and from them you periodically give a donation to me. You have become like a broker, but you should be wholesale mine - my agent. You are not doing that. You are dependent on those householders while maintaining some connection with me. This is not necessary. You are not a member of this world. You are mine alone. Whatever I say, you should do. You should not sell yourself to anything or any proposal of this world. You are to be wholesale my servant.” Thus, this necessary attitude is rarely to be found. We should surrender to whatever flows from the higher plane and thereby substantiate its reality.
There was once a Babaji who was thought by many to be a great devotee. Whenever he took the name, he shed incessant tears. Liquid also oozed from his nose, and he was seen to be in some abnormal meditating position. On either side of him his attendants would be constantly cleansing his tears and face with napkins, as he madly chanted the name. Some atheistic persons considered that he was displaying religious fanaticism, while common people who had some simple faith in God estimated him to be a very high-class devotee. But our Guru Maharaja, Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakura Prabhupada, rejected him and his antics as devoid of proper God conception.
tad abhyasa-pare ‘pi ca
sattvabhasam vinapi syuh,
(B.r.s. Dakshina, 3.89)
“Whenever shedding tears, horripilation, etc., are seen in persons whose hearts are soft externally and hard internally, and who are habituated to crying, rapture, etc., even though they do not possess a semblance of divine emotion - such an imitative sentiment should be known as totally unsubstantial and lifeless.”
Such persons are representing the Sahajiya school. Our Guru Maharaja wrote several poems, one of which is prakrita-rasa Shata-dushani, ‘one hundred defects in the Sahajiya conception.’ The defects are innumerable, but our Guru Maharaja put forward a hundred points of the defects in their process of ‘advancement’. Mainly they are very easy purchasers. They are not prepared to pay the real price. But the death blow to them is this:
upajiya bade lata ‘brahmanda’ bhedi’ yaya
‘viraja’, ‘brahmaloka’, ‘bhedi’, ‘paravyoma’ paya
tabe yaya tad upari ‘goloka-vrindavana’
‘krishna-carana’-kalpavrikshe kara arohana
(C.c. Madhya 19.153,4)
One must first cross the different gross and subtle layers of the Brahmanda (mundane universe); then Viraja, the extremity of the jurisdiction of Maya or misconception; then the Brahman conception, the halo of the real or transcendental world; then, Vaikuntha, which is Paravyoma, a sphere of consciousness.
There are some who are of the opinion that smarana (remembrance) is exclusively connected with consciousness, or more concerned with the subtle part of our existence; so that should be the most effective form of sadhana, or means to the end. But our Guru Maharaja, and Shrila Jiva Goswami, and also Kaviraj Goswami Prabhu, laid stress on kirtana - especially for the beginners. Guru Maharaja says in his song Vaishnava ke? (‘Who is a Vaishnava?’):
kirtana prabhave, smarana haibe,
se kale bhajana nirjana sambhava
“Internal remembrance can occur by the power of kirtana, and only then is solitary service possible.” Nirjana-bhajana or smarana, exclusive solitary devotion unconscious of the environment is not at all possible for beginners.
Promotion is inevitable if we always try to adhere to the lower duty. Eagerness for promotion is the enemy. That is for pratishtha (renown), and that will undermine everything. Shrila Prabhupada said that imitation arises from the attraction for pratishtha or desire to hold the superior position and acquire a name for oneself. That is the great enemy. Don’t fall prey to that pratishtha, eagerness to hold the higher position. Rather, dainyam - humility, is the healthy sign of a devotee.
When our Guru Maharaja addressed his disciples as vipada uddharana bandhu-gana, “My dear friends who have come to deliver me from danger”, we should, of course, recognize such a statement from both the relative and absolute standpoints. Students are a necessary part of a professor - when a professor has students, he feels the practical utility of his life has been successful. Thus, from the relative point of view, disciples can help the acarya. But from the absolute standpoint, Krishna’s will is everything, and the nitya-siddha or eternally perfect great souls who inwardly know the Lord’s intentions cannot be disturbed by any danger in any respect, but outwardly such an appearance may be manifest in their dealings.
“The Vaishnava is all in all, and I am nothing.” Such a feeling grows infinitely in the Vaishnava. “I am nothing, but he is everything - he is a Vaishnava; Guru and Vaishnava really hold Krishna-bhakti. They are the stockists. But I am empty-handed; I have nothing.” This is the nature of the association of the finite with the infinite. As much as we shall have a real approach towards the infinite, we cannot but consider ourselves to be the meanest of the mean. The standard of Vaishnava qualification (vaishnavata) is measured in this way. And this is not lip-deep, but the sincere dealing of the innermost heart. When Shrila Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami says, purishera kita haite muni sei laghishtha - “I am lower than the worm in stool” - this is not mere imitation, but his heartfelt truth. Acarya-abhimana, the assertion of the Guru over his disciple, is a different posture. That is assertion, but only for the service of the Vaishnava; the sincerity is maintained therein. The Guru’s assertion is not selfish assertion. His assertion is only for the sake of saving the public and upholding the prestige of the Vaishnava. So that is proper adjustment with reality, in twofold senses: to establish the real position of a Vaishnava, and at the same time to save the ordinary persons from the danger and the reaction of false attempt or false thought. So that kind of assertion is not egoistic. Rather, we should know that as sacrifice in the dynamic sense.
In Vishva-vaishnava-raja-sabha, our Guru Maharaja tactfully managed in this way: he asked one of his disciples to speak something in praise and appreciation of another disciple. And he especially asked this of disciples who were a little antagonistic to one another. He asked them. “Speak something in praise of your ‘friend.’ “Why? To try to mark the bright side, the svarupa, and to try to ignore the apparent side. He instructed, “You try to speak something in praise of your friend, your apparent opponent.” The Guru’s order was given, and so the disciple had to speak something in praise. Necessity is the mother of invention; he had to dive deep into the bright side of the other person and try to bring that side out. Thereby, the Vaishnava atmosphere of giving and taking was aroused and the apparent, mayika side was gradually ignored, disregarded and dissipated. Something similar happens in kirtana as well. Why is kirtana so powerful? Because when we are requested to speak something, we cannot but utilize our best attention to speak. We have to assert our best ability in the attempt to gather the proper information to speak something about the Supreme Lord. So, also, in the case of the Vaishnava, as in the case of the Lord, we must approach the svarupa, the inner side, the inner aspect, the bright side - and ignore the apparent side; and thereby we will thrive. There, the real mutual relationship will be aroused. Once a year in the Holy Dhama of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, it was the practice of our Guru Maharaja to preside in a meeting under the banner of Vishva-vaishnava-raja-sabha (Universal Assembly of the Topmost Pure Devotees), and there his method was such: “Try to praise the Vaishnava.”
When we are conscious of the real substance of Krishna consciousness, the real wealth we are receiving from our spiritual master, then our spiritual life cannot be sahajiyaism, imitationism.. We must be aware enough to detect our guru’s advice when we find it in another. One who is awake will see, “Here is my guru’s advice, I find it here in this man. Somehow or other, it has come here. How, I do not know, but I see my guru’s characteristics, his dealings, and behavior in this person.” When we are able to recognize a thing for its intrinsic value, then, wherever we find it, we cannot neglect it.
There is an example of this in an instance regarding Aurobindo Ghosh, of Pondicherry. He was the first leader of the Anarchist Party and practically the founder of the revolutionary movement in Bengal. In 1928, a case against him was proceeding in Calcutta High Court. A famous attorney, Mr. Norton, was in charge of the prosecution. Aurobindo had absconded, and when the case was going on, he was not to be found anywhere. Norton was concerned. How to find him? Aurobindo’s English was very good English. He had been educated in England from childhood, and could speak English even better than many Englishmen. Norton began to search through different papers and magazines for Aurobindo’s writing. Finally, he found Aurobindo’s style of writing in the Amrita Bazaar Patrika, a Bengali newspaper. “Here is Mr. Ghosh!” he said. The editor of the Amrita Bazaar Patrika was summoned to court to find out whether Aurobindo Ghosh had written the article. Norton examined him:
“This is your paper. You must know who has written this article. You are the editor.”
“Yes, I know.”
“Do you know this man, Aurobindo Ghosh?”
“Yes, I know him. I consider him to be one of the greatest men in the world.”
“As the editor of this newspaper do you know who wrote this article?”
“Yes, I know.”
“Has Mr. Ghosh written this article?”
“I won’t say.”
Norton asked him, “Do you know what is the punishment?”
“Yes. Six months imprisonment.”
“You are ready for that?”
“Yes, I am ready for that.” Holding up the newspaper article, Norton said, “Here is Mr. Ghosh! I rest my case.”
He saw Aurobindo in his writing, and in a similar way we must see, “Here is my gurudeva!” Our spiritual master would also sometimes say of one of his disciples who had departed, “Bhaktivinoda Thakura came to me, but I could not recognize him.” Those whose divine vision is awakened are always seeing signs of divinity everywhere.
At the same time, if my own relatives do not give recognition to my guru or to the service to Mahaprabhu, I must eliminate them. Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Prabhupada has explained the shiksha guru parampara in this way. Wherever we find the extraordinary line of the flow of love of God, and support for the same, we must bow down. That line may appear in a zigzag way, but still, that is the line of my gurudeva. In this way it is accepted. We want the substance, not the form.
Once an Indian political leader, Shyamasundara Cakravarti, asked our spiritual master, Prabhupada, “Why has the Lord granted freedom to the jiva?” Prabhupada told him, “You are fighting for freedom. Don’t you know the value of freedom? Devoid of freedom, the soul is only matter.” Freedom offers us the alternative to do right or wrong. Once, Ghandi told the British authorities, “We want freedom.” They replied, “You are not fit to have self-government. When you are fit, we shall give it to you.” But finally, he told them, “We want the freedom to do wrong.” So, freedom does not guarantee only acting in the right way; freedom has its value independent of right and wrong.
Free will is only absolute with the Absolute Truth. Because we are finite, our free will is infinitesimal. The possibility of committing a mistake is there. Our first choice was to dominate, and so, gradually we have entered the world of domination. As a result of this first action, everything else has developed. So, in different ranks, the species have been divided, from the demigods down to the trees and stones. And watery bodies, gaseous bodies, anything that we find here has evolved in that way. The activating principle in any form of embryological development is the soul, and from the soul, everything has evolved.
Once I asked our Prabhupada, “Why is there a difference between Sanatana and Rupa in their conception of the final part of krishna-lila? Sanatana closed his summary of Krishna’s pastimes in his Krishna-lila-stava in Mathura, and Rupa took it another step towards Dvaraka in his Lalita-madhava. He wrote two plays dealing with krishna-lila: one about Dvaraka and one about Vrindavana. Vidagdha-madhava takes place in Vrindavana; Lalita-madhava takes place in Dvaraka. But Sanatana Goswami liked to complete Krishna’s pastimes in Mathura.
According to Sanatana Goswami, after a long separation between Krishna and His family and friends, like a wheel the pastime moves from Mathura again to Vrindavana. After Krishna has gone to Mathura, the residents of Vrindavana, overwhelmed by separation, begin to think, “Krishna has been gone for such a long time. Nanda and Yashoda have lost their child!” The separation intensifies and develops further until they begin to think, “Oh, Nanda and Yashoda have no child!” Then they think, “They must have a child,” and begin to pray for the appearance of Krishna. Then Krishna appears as the son of Nanda and Yashoda. The cycle is complete and everyone is happy thinking, “Oh yes, Yashoda has got a child.” In this way Krishna’s pastimes again begin developing in Vrindavana and move to Mathura, where He kills Kamsa.
In his Krishna-lila-stava, his summary of krishna-lila, Sanatana Goswami did not take Krishna into Dvaraka from Mathura Mandala. But Rupa Goswami, in his play Lalita-madhava, showed the parallels between krishna-lila in Vrindavana and krishna-lila in Dvaraka. And so, in his Lalita-madhava, Rupa Goswami draws a parallel between Lalita as Jambavati, Radharani as Satyabhama, and Candravali as Rukmini. In this way, he shows the transformation between Vrindavana and Dvaraka.
I asked Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada about this difference between Rupa and Sanatana. He simply said, “It is adhokshaja, beyond our understanding. So krishna-lila is “un-understandable” (acintya). Everything is not bound to come within our fist. The Supreme Lord has “All Rights Reserved”. This must be understood if we at all want to be in connection with that plane of reality.
Once, Radharani left the rasa-lila when She saw that all the gopis were being dealt with almost equally by Krishna. Equal treatment towards one and all did not satisfy Her. So She decided to display a composition of singing and dancing to please Krishna in a most wonderful transcendental way. Radharani showed Her skill in various ways, and then at the last moment, She suddenly disappeared. And as Krishna was engaged in that combined singing and dancing, He suddenly found that Radharani was absent. So He left everyone to search for Radharani. He met Her on the way, and after walking for some time, Radharani told Him, “I can’t move, I can’t walk anymore. If You would like to go on, You will have to carry Me. I cannot go further.” And suddenly, Krishna disappeared.
A disciple of Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura once asked him why Krishna had disappeared in such a way. But our guru maharaja was very disturbed to hear such a question. In this lila, Krishna is apparently showing some disregard for Radharani. So our guru maharaja, by his very nature, could not even tolerate such a question. He had so much partiality towards Radharani that he was not disposed to hear anything against Her. And so, in a rather excited mood he answered, “Do you find any devotion here? What bhakti do you find here that you have asked me this question?” The question was rejected. He could not tolerate even an inquiry regarding that pastime.
When this news came to me, I tried to find what Bhaktivinoda Thakura had written in his own words about this verse of Shrimad-Bhagavatam in his collection, Bhagavatarka-Marici-Mala. Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has harmonized the difficulties in the verse. He explains that Krishna was thinking, “I would like to see what will be the mentality of separation in Her.” Only to appreciate the depth of the separation She felt from Him did Krishna disappear. Then of course Krishna returned after some time.
But our guru maharaja could not even tolerate the idea. “Where is devotion to be found here?” But Bhaktivinoda Thakura interpreted this pastime to mean that Krishna was driven to see what kind of happiness in separation Shrimati Radharani would experience. He took this as an example of how the Absolute becomes subservient to His devotee. And so we find that the negative, Shrimati Radharani, is so powerful that the positive, Krishna, becomes powerless near Her. It is as if the positive loses its separate existence. This is the victory of devotion.
Devotion is represented in the negative side, drawing from the positive. There is the juice in a fruit and the one who extracts the juice from the fruit. The highest devotion is found where the extraction is in its most intensified condition - there is the victory of the devotees: where the Absolute accepts defeat before His servitors. This reveals the real presence of devotion, dedication, surrender.
Once Vidyasagar wrote in a book ‘ishvara-nirakara-chaitanya-svarupa’ (‘The Lord is without any figure, and He is a mass of consciousness’). As but a young boy, Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Prabhupada went to him and challenged, “What have you written here? You say nshvara, Lord, and then you say nirakara, formless! Where have you found this? nshvara, the Creator, the Master - He is nirakara, formless?! Where have you found that nshvara is nirakara? He has a type of akara, form, and that is Cidakara, a Transcendental Form. But you say He is only a mass of consciousness and without any figure, and He is the Creator? Where have you found this?” In this way he challenged Vidyasagar. But he was very young, and Vidyasagar may not have cared for the challenge. Nonetheless, he did his duty. That was his temperament - he would always challenge. He had to challenge whatever was against the line of Mahaprabhu, otherwise he could have the satisfaction of having done his duty.
No compromise. Protest. Once Rabindranath Tagore wrote articles in some book under a pen-name, and Prabhupada also wrote protesting against those writings, also under a pen-name.
When Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura began the Service of the Dhama and Mahaprabhu, he had to do many things to attract the public to accept his discovery of the Dhama as authentic. At that time, the place was uninhabited. Gradually a brick building was made, and the worship of the Deity of Mahaprabhu was begun.
The Temple came later. Generally the Brahmana cooks he required would not stay there very long because it was an isolated place and there were violent elements nearby. To ensure that the Service continued, he had to undergo many undesirable things. For example, sometimes he had to prepare ganjika (hemp) by his own hand, for the cook! Otherwise, the cook would have left. At times, when ‘respectable’ persons came, he had to make arrangements for tobacco. There were many other trials.
Our Guru Maharaja, Prabhupada, also did similar things, to the extreme. When Anderson, the Governor, was invited to Mayapur, at that time it was arranged with a Calcutta hotel to bring appropriate food for the function, including even meats. The hotelier was arranged to cater for the Governor and his entourage. And when Prabhupada suggested some similar approach in foreign preaching also, I modestly protested that if the meat dishes, non-vegetarian dishes, were served in the Math area it would bring criticism to the mission; to which he replied, “No, no! I decided all these things thousands of births ago. We have to do anything and everything for the Service of Mahaprabhu.” That was his answer. vaikuntha-vritti - no kuntha, no limitation: ‘I am prepared to do anything for the Service of Mahaprabhu, for the propagation of His Mission. The Grace of Mahaprabhu should be distributed throughout the length and breadth of the whole world. And for that, anything should be done. No stone unturned. Physical connection is no connection. We shall try to save our internal purity, that is all.’ And to save so many souls from impure habits and diet, Shrimad Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja also took the risk of external contamination by filthy things. He had to go to the place of that anti-atmosphere to save them. If the house is on fire, one must run the risk of burns to his body if he really wants to save the inhabitants.
Our Guru Maharaja’s thinking was mostly revolutionary, he once told us, “You all know that only the bogus, hollow people and men of shallow thinking like Vrindavana.” I was very perplexed to hear this. I had been told that Vrindavana is the highest place of spiritual perfection. I had heard that one who has not mastered his senses cannot enter Vrindavana. Only the liberated souls can enter Vrindavana and have the opportunity of discussing krishna-lila. Vrindavana is for the liberated souls. Those who are not liberated from the demands of their senses may live in Navadwipa, but the liberated souls may live in Vrindavana. Now Prabhupada was saying that the shallow thinkers appreciate Vrindavana, but a man of real bhajana, real divine aspiration, will aspire to live in Kurukshetra.
Hearing this, I felt as if I had fallen from the top of a tree. “What is this?” I thought. I am a very acute listener, so I was very keen to catch the meaning of his words. The next thought he gave us was that Bhaktivinoda Thakura, after visiting many different places of pilgrimage, remarked, “I would like to spend the last days of my life in Kurukshetra. I shall construct a cottage near Rama-hrad and pass the rest of my life there. Kurukshetra is the real place of bhajana.”
Why? Service is more valuable according to the intensity of its necessity. Shrewd merchants seek a market in wartime because in that dangerous position, money is spent like water, without any care for its value. They can earn more money if a war comes. In the same way, when Shrimati Radharani’s necessity reaches its zenith, service to her becomes extremely valuable. According to its necessity, service is valued. And in Kurukshetra, Shrimati Radharani is in the highest necessity because Krishna is so close, but their vrindavana lila is impossible. In a football game, if the ball is just inches from the goal, but again comes back, it is considered a great loss. In the same way, after a long separation, Krishna is there in Kurukshetra, so the hankering for union felt by his devotees must come to its greatest point, but because he is in the role of a king, they cannot meet intimately. The circumstances do not allow the vrindavana-lila to take place. So at that time, Shrimati Radharani needs the highest service from her group, the sakhis.
Bhaktivinoda Thakura says that in that situation, a drop of service will draw the greatest amount of prema, divine love. In the pastimes of Radha-Govinda, there are two aspects: sambhoga, divine union, and vipralambha, divine separation. When Radha and Krishna are very near to each other, but can’t meet intimately, service at that time can draw the greatest gain for the servitors. Therefore, Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura says, “I shall construct a hut on the banks of Rama-hrad in Kurukshetra and contemplate rendering service to the Divine Couple. If I can achieve that standard where the prospect of service is so high, then there is no possibility of returning to this mundane plane at any time.”
Our Guru Maharaja was not vomitimg what he heard from others, but giving something fresh. We should never think that we have understood Krishna consciousness, otherwise we shall be deceived. We should place our tiny faith in the Infinite, with all our sincerity, and prepare ourselves for the waves of Infinite realization that may come to us by the grace of Shri Guru and Gauranga.