śrī śrī guru gaurāṅga jayataḥ!
Year-2, Special On-line Edition
Posted: 5 December, 2009
nitya-līlā praviṣṭa oṁ viṣṇupāda
Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja
Inspired by and under the guidance of
Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja
The Means of Attaining Welfare
When Sādhu-saṅga is Far Away
A letter from Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda
Śrī Caitanya Maṭha,
22nd December 1927
[In the letter published in Śrīla Prabhupadera Patrāvalī, the recipient was kept anonymous.]
Yesterday, I received a letter from your good self. I also received a letter from you many days ago, even before I went to the Western districts, but I could not reply to it in time due to my travels there. You can find out about the festivals and programmes that were held in various places in the Western districts by reading the Gauḍīya* magazine or by hearing from the devotees. Righteous people everywhere are becoming joyful and satisfied by hearing the message of Śrīman Mahāprabhu.
* The Gauḍīya was a weekly periodical published in Bengali. It was founded by Śrīla Prabhupāda and boldly propounded the rūpānuga gauḍīya conception.
For the devotees of Bhagavān, Śrī Navadvīpa-dhāma is a place of utmost reverence. Every place in this dhāma awakens remembrance of Bhagavān within one’s heart. For this reason, I especially desire to live here for a few more days. But, according to what is necessary for the sake of service to Śrī Hari, I shall have to travel to other places, like Calcutta.
Śrīman Mahāprabhu is extremely merciful. He has therefore arranged that so many devotees are present even in a place like Calcutta. In Śrī Gauḍīya Maṭha, harikathā (discussion of Lord Hari) flows constantly and everyone has become intoxicated by their intense engagement in service. It is most appropriate for me to thoroughly embrace such association for the rest of my life, like when Śrī Parīkṣit Mahārāja heard Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam for the last days of his life. In these last days of my life, a place devoid of harikathā, even if it were occupied by all my kith and kin and full of all material comforts, seems utterly undesirable to me. By the mercy of the Supreme Lord, seeing how the inclination to devotedly serve Bhagavān is present within all the māthas, I constantly think of the benevolence of Śrīman Mahāprabhu.
I once spent my life preferring to drink the happiness that is derived from the objects of material sense perception, but today, wherever I go, I am able to serve Śrī Bhagavān and gain the association of His devotees. By spending however many days we have left of our lives like this, we shall never live in misery by becoming averse to Śrī Hari.
You are not hearing enough harikathā from the lips of the devotees, who are inclined toward serving Śrī Bhagavān and who are rapt in hari-bhajana. Because of this, you do not appreciate your good fortune. However, the fact that you constantly remain inclined to serve Śrī Hari keeps you aloof from adverse association. When you are on your own, you should always read the Gauḍīya and the devotional literatures written by other Vaiṣṇavas. This will, in itself, enable you to reap the benefit of listening to harikathā from the lips of the devotees.
* * *
While living on this earth, we do not get the direct association of many devotees from the transcendental realm. But because the conversations and pastimes of the devotees who were present during the manifest pastimes of Śrīman Mahāprabhu perpetually exist in the form of sacred texts (granthas) and sound vibration (śabda), or words, we do not feel so much pain in our worldly troubles. If we live in this world in the midst of the discussion and message of the transcendental world, our reflections on that message will keep us aloof from worldly pain. No matter where you find yourself, that divine harikathā will never abandon you. To be sure, you will even remember Bhagavān and comprehend the topic of bhakti within all the things of this world.
By the sublime will of the Lord I may again have the opportunity to visit all these places in the Western districts and you would again get the chance to listen to harikathā. But it is certainly appropriate for a devotee to forget his misery and live in whatever condition Bhagavān is pleased to keep him in.
The ordinary people of this material world cannot understand the divine message of Bhagavān – of Śrīman Mahāprabhu – or of the transcendent nature and qualities of His devotees. Only when the inclination to serve Bhagavān arises in one’s heart can one remember Śrī Hari under all circumstances.
Since you are always endeavouring for your spiritual welfare, Bhagavān is manifesting all of His transcendental narrations, the message of Godhead, within your heart through the medium of the devotional literatures.
It is written in Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata:
yata dekha vaiṣṇavera vyavahāra duḥkha
niścaya jāniha sei parānanda sukha
Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata, Madhya-khaṇḍa (9.240)
Know this for certain: whatever you may perceive as ordinary misery in a Vaiṣṇava is in fact his greatest joy.
So that He may test us, within this world Bhagavān always remains hidden. Our superficial perception can only diminish by comprehending His presence underlying everything.
adya ’pi sei līlā kare gaura-rāya
kauna kauna bhagyavane dekhibāre pāya
Even today, Gaura-rāya is performing His pastimes, but only a few, most fortunate souls can see them.
When will that most fortunate day come for us when we all become travellers on the path of bhakti by following in the footsteps of Śrī Gaurasundara in every respect?
This world is but a place where the Supreme Lord examines us. To excel in that examination one must hear kīrtana of Hari performed by His devotees. And you are hearing that kīrtana through the medium of devotional literature. Therefore, it is by no means appropriate for you to consider yourself deprived.
Once, a long time ago, Hiraṇyakaśipu declared everywhere, “God does not exist!” On many occasions he had verbally confronted his son Prahlāda with great hostility and had committed many atrocities against him. But then Śrī Nṛsiṁhadeva emerged from within a pillar, and generated spiritual welfare for Hiraṇyakaśipu and the entire world. The devotees of the Lord perceive their Lord at all times and in all things, but those who are envious of Him cannot even comprehend that He exists at all.
We, who are situated somewhere in between, are sometimes inclined towards devotional service to Hari, but the very next moment we absorb ourselves in sense gratification. Due solely to our desire to engage in devotional service, we will gradually escape our entanglement in all forms of material sense enjoyment. Fleeting happiness and distress is always present in mundane sense gratification, but devotional service, bhakti, which is eternal, gives bliss to Bhagavān. With the aim of giving that bliss to Bhagavān, we can remain perpetually engaged in His service.
I am not sure whether or not you will get any instantaneous benefit by reading this detailed letter. My communication skills are extremely poor. Since I am not able to make everything understandable to everyone, I often remain silent.
Here in Śrī Caitanya Maṭha all the activities have begun that are necessary before the commencement of the festival.
Your eternal well-wisher
Śrī Siddhānta Sarasvatī
Translated from Śrīla Prabhupādera Patrāvalī*
by the Rays of The Harmonist team
* Śrīla Prabhupādera Patrāvalī is a compilation of letters from Śrīla Prabhupāda Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura.