Introduction to Raya Ramananda Samvada

Tridandisvami Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja
Maui, Hawaii: May 24, 2000

rayaramananda[This year, 2014, Srila Raya Ramananda's appearance day is May 19th (in India). Srila Raya Ramananda's discussions with Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu as described in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta are eternally fresh and ever-increasingly nourishing for us. During Srila Gurudeva's fourteen years of world hari-katha festivals, this discussion was one of his favorite topics to benedict us lost souls of this world.

The following is a transcription of his extremely interesting lecture given in Maui, Hawaii, on May 24, 2000, wherein he talks about the first part of their discussion:]

Come with me. Let us join Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in our minds as He went from Puri to South India to search for His brother, Visvarupa. This was only a pretext, however. Actually, Mahaprabhu wanted to make all of South India, and the entire world, pure devotees. He wanted them to all chant and remember Krsna, and be happy forever.

Without chanting, no one can be happy in this world. You should know this. Mahaprabhu told everyone who came to Him, "Yare dekha tare kaho krsna upadesa, amara ajnaya guru hana tara ei desa. I am telling you, and you should also tell anyone you meet: 'Chant "Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare."' Then, in turn, that person will tell others. By my order you should preach this to others." Very soon all of South India began to chant, and all became Vaisnavas.

This was the order of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and in this way His message very quickly went all over the world. I have also come here only to tell you how you can be truly happy. Chant Hare Krsna. This is a very easy process to become happy, and I am inviting you all to follow. Those who are not yet following will benefit by following.

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu thus went to the sacred river Godavari, and there He thought, "Oh, here is the Yamuna." He saw a beautiful forest there and thought, "This is the very beautiful forest of Vrndavana." When He saw some rocks and mountains He thought, "Oh, you are Giriraja Govardhana."

He was thus absorbed in love and affection for Lord Krsna. He forgot everything external and was absorbed in dancing. Sometimes He was rolling on the earth crying, "O My beloved Krsna, where are You? Where are You?" Sometimes He laughed, and sometimes He sang, "Krsna Krsna Krsna Krsna Krsna Krsna Krsna He. Krsna Krsna Krsna Krsna Krsna Krsna Krsna He. Rama Raghava, Rama Raghava, Rama Raghava raksa mam. Krsna Kesava, Krsna Kesava, Krsna Kesava pahi mam."

He then crossed the Godavari River to take bath. It was morning, and He arrived at a very lonely place near the bathing ghata. In the meantime, a governor of that area named Raya Ramananda came with many associates and thousands of Vedic brahmanas who were reciting Vedic mantras, announcing with a big drum that he was coming. Ramananda Raya took bath there, and then he noticed that a very brilliant, effulgent young sannyasi was nearby, sitting in trance. He was very much attracted and, after taking bath, he left all his attendants, soldiers, and everyone else, and went

alone to the place where Caitanya Mahaprabhu was sitting. There he offered obeisances.

Mahaprabhu looked at him and asked, "Are you Raya Ramananda?"

"Yes, I am that very same wretched person," Raya Ramananda replied.

"When I was in Jagannatha Puri," Mahaprabhu told him, "A very learned person, Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, was very kind to me. He told Me that if I would be going to South India, I must meet Raya Ramananda. He said, 'Even though he is a governor, like a viceroy or representative of the king in that area, he is a greatly learned and high-class devotee.'"

Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya had also told Mahaprabhu, "At first I could not believe him, and I used to joke with him, saying, 'Oh, you are a Vaisnava. Vaisnavas are nothing. They are blind followers.' But then I realized that he is an exalted personality, and I pray that if You are going in that direction You must meet him. You will see what a high class of a devotee he is. Please be merciful to him."

"That is why I have come, Mahaprabhu then told Raya Ramananda, "Only to associate with you. Otherwise there was no reason for Me to come here. I want to hear hari-katha from you."

Raya Ramananda replied, "Because you have come here, I know that Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya is my well-wisher. He has sent You. You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is so kind to send You to me. I beg that You stay here for six or seven days, not only for one or two days. Be merciful. Please sprinkle Your mercy upon me."

In this way they glorified each other, and this is the etiquette of Vaisnava devotees. Nowadays you have forgotten this etiquette, and that is why you are falling down. We should try to honor each other. We should honor all devotees. Those who are not pure devotees will simply tell each about their mundane problems: "My husband has left me." "My wife has left me." "Should I marry or not? This is very big problem." "I am unsuccessful in what I began." "I am in the process of divorce." "My business has stopped; what should I do?"

We speak only about these problems. This is not Vaisnava etiquette. A Vaisnava has no problem at all. He is always happy, and he can make even hippies happy. I remember that Srila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja made thousands upon thousands of hippies happy. He changed them, and they became devotees. They became really happy.

While Mahaprabhu was speaking with Raya Ramananda, a brahmana came and invited Mahaprabhu to his house to take lunch prasada. He was a real brahmana and Vaisnava, and Mahaprabhu therefore wanted to go there and take prasada. He requested Raya Ramananda, "You must certainly meet me in the evening."

Both waited in anticipation of their evening meeting. Raya Ramananda changed his royal garments, donned only a very simple dhoti, and arrived with only one associate. He had no royal umbrella, no palanquin, and no bodyguard. Alone, he offered prostrated obeisances to Mahaprabhu. They sat together for the whole night, and then for so many days. Their krsna-katha continued in a regulated way, from evening to morning, with no sleep and no interruptions.

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu told Raya Ramananda, "I know you are a very high-class devotee. You are so learned, you know all the scriptures, and you are a master of Srimad-Bhagavatam. I will therefore ask you some questions, and I request that you reply by giving examples from those scriptures. I will not give your replies any importance if you do not give evidence from the scriptures."

We should always know what constitutes real evidence. So many persons tell so many things, but this is not evidence. Evidence comes from the Vedas and Upanisads, and also from the words of any high-class devotee who has none of the four defects: bhrama (the tendency to commit mistakes), pramada (the tendency to be illusioned), vipralipsa (the tendency to cheat) and karanapatava (imperfect senses). His words can be taken as evidence. In addition, the sastras which are in accordance with the Vedas, like Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, the books of the Six Gosvamis, and the four acaryas of the four Vaisnava sampradayas, are all evidence. The strongest and purest evidence, however, is the words of Srimad-Bhagavatam. So Sriman Mahaprabhu told Raya Ramananda, "If you offer evidence from the Vedas, Upanisads, and Bhagavatam, I will surely accept."

His first question was, "What is sadhya (the goal of life) and what is sadhana (the means to attain that goal)?"

In the morning class I told you that all living entities have come out from the glance of Karanodakasayi Visnu. They cannot be created, for they are eternal, but they are coming from the light, the sight, of Karanodakasayi Visnu. You should know what that light is. The dim reflection of that light is a combination of the semblance of cit-sakti, the semblance of the tatastha, or marginal, energy, plus vibhinamsa-tattva, plus maya-sakti. The mixture of these four is called Sambhu-linga. It is from there that the jivas are coming. Sambhu-linga is a semblance of Sadasiva-tattva (a form of Visnu-tattva). And maya (the deluding material energy) must also be present, for without maya there can be no creation at all. All this mixing becomes Sambhu-tattva, or Sambhu-linga, and by this the creation comes. The creation of what? This gross material body and subtle material body. The soul is not created, but these two are created. We should know all these truths – that the living entities are not created, but rather they are an eternal potency. It is not possible to give more explanation than this at this time. We will have to realize all this by chanting harinama.

When your chanting of the holy name becomes pure, when the holy name you chant is actually the name of God Himself and not an offence to the holy name or a semblance of the name, when that name becomes transcendental, then you will realize all truths. By mental exercise you will never be able to realize anything.

By chanting you will realize krsna-tattva, maya-tattva, bhakti-tattva, jiva-tattva, and everything else. Then, after that, at some point, you will have to forget all material considerations and you will have to know that Krsna is your bosom friend, your son, or your most beloved.

Srila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja, your Prabhupada, came to tell you that Lord Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. But he told me to tell you all that you should now forget that Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and now that time has come. He wants me to tell you that you should now think of Krsna as a bosom friend, or a beloved, or a son, and He is your everything. In this way our bhakti, devotion to Him should increase.

Now we come again to our subject. Can you read Mahaprabhu's first question to Raya Ramananda according to Srila Svami Maharaja's translation?

Prema-prayojana dasa: Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu ordered Ramananda Raya to recite a verse from the scriptures concerning sadhya, the ultimate goal of life.

Srila Gurudeva: I am explaining what Srila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja, your Gurudeva, has explained. I am not in a different line from him. I follow him.

What did Raya Ramananda reply? He explained sadhya, the goal. He did not merely explain sadhana, the means to attain the goal.

Sripad Madhava Maharaja: Mahaprabhu asked Ramananda Raya about the goal of life. He did not first ask about sadhana, the means. He wanted to establish the goal first.

Ramananda Raya replied:

varnasramacara-vata
purusena parah puman
visnur aradhyate pantha
nanyat tat-tosa-karanam
Sri-Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya-lila, 8.58

This means, "It is imperative to follow varnasrama-dharma. There are four varnas and four asramas. Brahmanas, ksatriyas, vaisyas, and sudras are the four varnas, or occupational duties. The four asramas, or spiritual orders, are brahmacarya (celibate student), grhastha (householder), vanaprastha (beginner renunciant) and sannyasa (one in the renounced order). You may be in any varna or any asrama, but it is essential to maintain varnasrama-dharma. In this way you can please Visnu, and there is no other means."

Hearing this answer, Mahaprabhu said that varnasrama is external. Why? Why did Mahaprabhu not accept it as the goal of life? This is because there is no explanation about the soul. Varnasrama-dharma is required only to maintain our social system. In Srimad-Bhagavatam it is stated: "Sa vai pumsam paro dharmo." The best religion for the soul is uninterrupted and one-pointed devotion to Visnu. By this the soul and the Supersoul will both be pleased. But here, in the case of varnasrama, there is no proof that the soul and the Supersoul will be pleased. It is like karma-misra bhakti (bhakti mixed with the desire to enjoy the results of fruitive activities), not svarupa-siddha bhakti (activities constituted purely of bhakti, such as hearing, chanting, and remembering Krsna or Visnu). Therefore, Mahaprabhu said it is external. It is not pure bhakti, and He therefore rejected it as the pure goal. Now Ramananda Raya is going ahead. Now we shall hear from Srila Gurudeva.

In this varnasrama-dharma it is recommended that one worships Visnu. What is our object? The process is worship of Visnu, but what is the aim of that worship? We want to be happy in this world, and most persons' conception is that Visnu will give a boon so that we will be happy. Above this is salvation, freedom from attachment, and merging with Visnu. This is peoples' conception of God's boon, but actually this is like a curse, not a boon. Neither should we try to merge with Krsna, nor should we try to do anything for becoming happy by sense gratification in this world, which is temporary.

In this country, America, there is an itching disease called eczema. In this condition we scratch, and this scratching seems to be very pleasant. But it is a disease after all, and after some time it will become very painful.

This world is such. Worldly life is like an itch, a disease. By worshiping Lord Visnu we can give this up and be happy for some time, but again that itch will come. Similarly, varnasrama-dharma is external. There is no service of the soul; only external service for the body.

Srila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura have tried to establish this varnasrama-dharma. Why? By following it we will at least be human beings; otherwise we are animals. First we should be human, because humanity is a platform for bhakti. First we should make a platform, and then we can hear hari-katha.

In order to make gradual spiritual advancement, varnasrama is somewhat favorable, but not fully. Therefore, Mahaprabhu is telling Ramananda Raya to go further. Is there any doubt in this? Our aim is not to follow varnasrama-dharma. Srila Svami Maharaja told his disciples to create varnasrama-dharma in Gita Nagari, New Vrndavana, New Mayapura and so many other places. He wanted to establish this, but only as a platform. Where are most of these projects now? They are gone. Now there is mostly barren land, and that barren land is weeping – nothing substantial is there.

Syamarani dasi: Srila Raya Ramananda quoted Bhagavad-gita: "All that you do, all that you give away, and all that you offer in sacrifice should be done for Me." Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu also rejected this proposal to be the goal, considering it external, because everything we do is for our own satisfaction. Whatever activity I do in this world has a karmic reaction. Even if it is a pious action and I get a pious reaction, I still have to suffer in this world. If I give someone a lot of money, in my next life I'll be rich. However, in that next life I still have to take birth in a womb and accept old age, disease and death. The motive is my own personal sense gratification.

Mahaprabhu rejected this as not being the perfection. He again told Ramananda Raya to go further, and Raya Ramananda then offered the conclusion of the Bhagavad-gita. "Sarva dharma parityajya – Give up all varieties of so-called religious activities, and surrender everything to Me. In return I will free you from all fear and all sinful reactions."

Mahaprabhu rejected this as the goal. It is better than animal life, better than having nothing to do with Krsna, so why did Lord Caitanya reject it? Again, it was external, because it was related to the body. "I want Krsna to free me from fear," so I have a personal motivation. I'm not trying to please Krsna, but I want Krsna's protection for my body, and for my mental and intellectual comfort.

This is like a business proposition. If I do something for Krsna, then He will do something for me. Therefore Caitanya Mahaprabhu rejected it as not being the goal. Real devotion means there is no material cause and no material interruption.

Srila Gurudeva: In Srimad-Bhagavatam there are so many examples of this. One example is the story of King Hariscandra. He was a very powerful ksatriya king in varnasrama-dharma, and he used to worship Lord Visnu. He was very truthful, he never told a lie, he never accepted any untruth, and he was very generous to all creatures. One day Visvamitra, a high-class surrendered devotee, came in a dream to Hariscandra and told him, "You are very generous, a truthful speaker, a very good king, and you always worship Visnu. I know that if I ask anything from you, you will definitely give it. So I want something from you." In the dream Visvamitra told the king that he wanted his whole kingdom, and the king said, "Yes, I am giving it to you."

After that dream was over, the king forgot all about it. In the morning, Visvamitra himself came to Hariscandra and asked him if he remembered the previous night's dream.

Hariscandra said, "I don't remember anything. What was that? Oh, you asked for my kingdom and I gave it to you."

Visvamitra said, "So you should give it to me."

Hariscandra replied, "But that was in a dream."

"Actually, it was not a dream," Visvamitra said. "I really came to you."

Hariscandra knew the mystic abilities of powerful sages and believed him. So he said, "Yes, I take a vow that I am giving you the kingdom. This whole kingdom is now yours." Visvamitra then told him to give some daksina, a donation of money. In India, if one donates anything, he gives some coins as well to consummate the donation; and therefore Visvamitra asked him to give him some daksina.

Hariscandra called his treasurer and told him to give ten thousand gold coins to Visvamitra. Visvamitra smiled and told him, "You are a liar. You gave me your entire kingdom, and now your treasury is mine also. So how can you tell the treasurer to give gold to me? It is already mine." Hariscandra agreed, and therefore wanted to take a loan from someone in the kingdom. But Visvamitra said, "Now all the citizens are also mine, and you may not take a loan from anyone in my kingdom."

Next, Hariscandra decided to sell himself. But Visvamitra said, "In my kingdom you cannot sell even yourself." The King then became perplexed about what to do, thinking that he had done wrong. He asked Visvamitra, "What should I do? Please give me some suggestions." Visvamitra told him, "Go to Kasi, which is situated on the trident of Sankara. It is not in this world. There you can sell yourself, and then you can pay me. But you must always remember that you have to pay me."

Hariscandra went to Kasi with his wife and son, on foot, because all his chariots, and everything else, now belonged to Visvamitra. After many days he reached Kasi and began calling out to the people that they could purchase him. A low-class person, the guard of the cremation grounds, told him that he would buy him and that he would have to do duty at the cremation grounds. Hariscandra accepted this, because there was no one else to purchase him, but the guard gave only five thousand golden coins.

He needed more, and therefore he sold his wife, Sadya, and son, Rohitasya. A very cruel brahmana gave five thousand coins and took them both. If you sell a cow, then you are no longer its owner. Similarly, now Hariscandra was not the king, nor the husband of his wife, nor was he any longer the father of his child. He had some false ego, however, considering that he used to be, or still was, a king, and that he was still the husband of Sadya and the father of Rohitasya.

After a while, it happened that a snake came and bit his son and he died. It was midnight, during the rainy season. Very cold winds were blowing and very heavy rain was falling. The brahmana told Sadya, "Take this dead body away from here. I cannot allow you to remain here with this dead body. I have no pity on you."

Taking her child's body in her arms and weeping, she went to the cremation ground. At that time Hariscandra was the guard of that impure place. In the darkness he couldn't recognize his wife or son. He asked discompassionately, "Who is here weeping? First you must give the tax for cremation, and then you can use this facility."

At that moment lightening flashed, and he could that the woman before him was indeed Sadhya. He was bewildered, not knowing if he should identify himself as her husband (now that he had already sold her and her son), or himself as the father of the dead boy, or himself as king, or himself as the crematorium guard.

Just then Visvamitra appeared with Yamaraja, or Dharmaraja; and Lord Narayana also came. They brought Hariscandra's son back to life and told him to take any boon. Visvamitra told him that in his life as a king he had been misguided by illusion. He said, "In this world no one can speak the truth. Your name is not Hariscandra. This is the name of your gross body. And what is this body made of? It is merely a combination of blood and flesh, urine and stool. You don't know that your soul is the eternal servant of Lord Krsna. If you are thinking, 'I am the father, husband, king, etc.,' how are you speaking the truth?

"You should know that you are part and parcel of Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. You are not part of this world. So forget all false conceptions. Try to serve Krsna and chant His names." Hariscandra accepted all this, but he had one request: "Please don't give such a hard test to the jivas in Kali-yuga. They will never be able to pass your test. They will always fail."

Hariscandra was doing what we want to do, varnasrama-dharma, and he was following and worshiping Lord Visnu more seriously than we can. But he did not have any idea that we are transcendental, or that we are eternal servants of Krsna. This is our main problem. If you are thinking, "I am the doer," or even thinking, "I am giving something to Krsna," this is not pure bhakti. That is why it has been said in Bhagavad-gita (18.66):

sarva dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja
aham tvam sarva papebhyo moksyaisyami ma sucah

What is the meaning of this sloka?

Sripad Madhava Maharaja: Ramananda Raya is now giving the suggestion from Bhagavad-gita, wherein Krsna has instructed Arjuna: "O Arjuna, give up all temporary dharma and all activities and conceptions which are in relationship to the temporary material body and mind. Surrender yourself and take shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. By doing so you will be freed from all sinful reactions. Do not be afraid."

This seems to be a very transcendental and excellent suggestion, but upon hearing this Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu gave the response: "O my dear Ramananda Raya, this is external. I also reject this. Tell me something more." The eternal occupation of the soul is to render loving service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead in a relationship with Him. Saranagati, surrender, is mainly the rejection of things which are temporary and unfavorable for spiritual development. In saranagati we have not yet realized out relationship with the Supreme Lord, with possessiveness and with love and affection. Therefore Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu also rejected this conception as being the goal of life.

In and of itself, surrender to the Supreme Lord is not directly bhakti. It is not the positive and eternal, perfect activity of the soul. Rather, it is considered to be the doorway to bhakti. If you want to enter any building, first you have to come to a door. You cannot walk through the wall. If anyone is hearing, chanting, remembering, and serving Krsna, but they have not first surrendered themselves completely, saying "O Krsna, I am Yours. I depend fully on You. I accept everything which is favorable for bhakti and reject all things which are unfavorable. You are my protector, You are my maintainer. I will always be meek and humble, and will have no interest separate from Your interest," his activities will not be called pure devotional service.

Unless one has accepted these six limbs of saranagati before he renders his devotional service, his service will be an imitation, like a drama. The first thing is surrender. This surrender is not bhakti, but it is the prerequisite to enter the bhakti realm.

Srila Gurudeva: I have heard a story about Jesus Christ. Once there were many persons assembled, and taking stones in their hands, they wanted to kill a guilty person. This person had a very bad character. He had been attracted to a lady, he caught hold of her, and he did some bad things. So, many persons were assembled and they wanted to kill him with the stones.

At that moment Jesus Christ came there and told them, "Oh, listen to me first. I want you to kill this person with your stones. I also have a stone, so we will all throw these stones at him together and kill him. But first hear me. Only those of you who are not guilty of the same crime are allowed to stone him. Whoever is personally guilty of any bad activities, whoever has done as this person has, may not do so." All of them stopped. No one there was pure in heart and free from the guilt of this same crime.

Although we see some mercy in this instance, we should try to know that this mercy is not real mercy. The Supreme Personality has created all creatures – trees, insects, fish, cows, and every other living being. In every body there is a soul. It is a misconception to think that the soul is only in the human body, and we should therefore only serve the human race.

What were Florence Nightingale and Mother Theresa doing? They were serving all the diseased and poor people, even those with leprosy. However, they gave them beef, meat, fish, and wine, and they thought there was no harm in that. They did not know that fish also have life, cows also have life, and all others have life – just like human beings.

We are not authorized to kill any living being in any species of life, because they are all sons and daughters of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who never wants them to be killed. The cow is like a mother. She gives milk without considering caste and creed. She gives milk to everyone, whether such persons are Mohammadan, Indian, American, or anyone else. We can therefore think of her as a mother who gives her breast-milk. If one takes a new calf and kills him for her meat, what is this? Is this mercy? I went to Vatican City and I became happy to see a great monument there. There were hundreds of thousands of pilgrims there, all paying their respects, and I also wanted to pay respects: "O Jesus Christ, how glorious you are."

Then, seeing some very beautiful and soft calves of only two or three days old I asked, "Why are there so many calves here?" "You don't know? The pope will take their flesh today. He will invite so many of his friends, and they will eat all of them." I then began to hate that land, and said, "I should not spend another moment here. I should go away. These people are as cruel as butchers. They have no pity or mercy upon these cows and calves, nor upon anyone else."

What are eggs? If you want to take eggs, you can take an egg from your mother's womb. That is also a kind of egg. So, we should not take all these things. Rather, we should know that the soul is everywhere – not only in the human body. Therefore, service only to humankind is not service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is essential to know this.

Mahaprabhu therefore rejected the consideration of "Sarva dharman parityajya..." as the goal, what to speak of all these other things.

Gaura Premanande!

Painting by: Vasudeva-krsna dasa

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