Whom To Follow And How Much To Follow Them


Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja 
Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja

Granada, Spain: June 24, 2003
Tridandisvami Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja


[On every world-preaching tour of every year, Srila Narayana Maharaja discusses, and instructs his followers to discuss, the five types of devotion and the five types of devotees. In order that his audiences may be able to make an educated decision regarding what type of devotion they desire to achieve, he generally speaks about the life and character of devotees like Dhruva Maharaja, Prahlada Maharaja, King Citraketu, Bharata Maharaja, King Ambarisa, Hanuman, the Pandavas and Uddhava. His visit to Spain was no exception and, as usual, he shared new insights and angles of vision on the subject.]

Yesterday we discussed bhakti, devotion, and its gradations. In that connection we spoke about the life histories of Ajamila and Bharata Maharaja. We spoke about the first stage of Bharata Maharaja's life, but we did not reach the chapter in which his conversation with King Rahugana takes place.

[Asrama Maharaja:] King Rsabdeva had 100 sons, and prominent among them was Bharata, whom he appointed as the next king. Bharata ruled the kingdom for about 50,000 years, and then he left his kingdom to perform meditation at Pulaha Asrama by the bank of the Gandaki River. He somehow became attached to a deer, and because of his attachment he himself became a deer in his next life. As a deer, he stayed at that asrama by the Gandaki River in the association of sadhus, saintly persons. In his next life he took birth as the self-realized soul Jada Bharata, the son of a brahmana.

At that time there was a king named Maharaja Rahugana. Riding on a palanquin, the king was on his way to the asrama of Kapiladeva. One of the palanquin carriers fell sick, and the other carriers, seeing that Jada Bharata was very strong and stout, had him replace the man who had become ill. Because Jada Bharata was in an exalted state of consciousness, he refused to cause harm to any living entity. Therefore, avoiding the ants as he walked along the path, he was not able to carry the palanquin properly. This caused Maharaja Rahugana to rock back and forth, and he immediately chastised the palanquin carriers, saying, "What are you doing? Can you not carry the palanquin properly?" They said, "No, no, no! It is not us It is this new person. He is going left and right, and left and right. That is why the palanquin is rocking."

Maharaja Rahugana immediately chastised Jada Bharata, sarcastically saying, "Oh, what is the problem? Are you too weak and thin? Have you not eaten?" Actually Jada Bharata was quite strong and stout. The king demanded, "Please, carry me properly." They started to carry him again; but again, the second time, Jada Bharata avoided the ants and the palanquin shook back and forth. Again Maharaja Rahugana chastised him, saying, "Don't you know who I am? Why are you acting in such a way? You should be very careful. If you don't carry me properly, I will have to severely punish you."

Jada Bharata replied, "My dear king, you are bewildered, thinking that you are the ruler of all the people and that you are in this very exalted position. You should understand that you have taken this position only due to the three modes of material nature and your karmic situation. In our next life, I may be the ruler and you may be the palanquin carrier. Because of your false ego, you think you are so exalted." He then began to explain atma-tattva, the truths of the spiritual self, to the king.

Maharaja Rahugana became amazed and wondered, "Who is this elevated person? He looks like a very dull person. He has not taken a bath for some time, and practically speaking he has no clothes on; but he is speaking in such an exalted way."

Understanding the elevated position of the brahmana, Maharaja Rahugana jumped down from his palanquin and offered his obeisances. Falling flat like a rod he asked, "Oh, who are you? Are you a great sage? I see that you are wearing a brahmana thread. Maybe you are the incarnation Dattatreya?" Maharaja Rahugana had been on his way to the asrama of Lord Kapiladeva, so he then inquired. "Are you that very same Kapiladeva? Is that you?"

Jada Bharata explained to him, "You have chastised me and said that I am like a dead person. You asked, 'Are you thin? Are you malnourished?' This kind of talk is coming from someone who has no spiritual intelligence. The soul is not thin or stout. The soul is not malnourished or well-fed. The soul is none of these things. Only due to ignorance you think that you are king, that these people are your palanquin carriers, and that all are your servants. This mentality comes from complete ignorance."

Maharaja Rahugana further inquired, "My dear sir, you are speaking such advanced knowledge, but can you please enlighten me on one thing? You say that the activities of the body are not connected to the soul, but I see that actually the soul is feeling the pains and pleasures of the body. You tell me that the soul is not feeling any pains or pleasures. You say that the soul is not carrying the palanquin. But, I see that the soul is doing this."

The king gave the example of a pot of milk on the fire. He said, "That pot will get hot. In turn, the milk will get hot, and the rice that is in the milk will also get hot. In the same way, the body may be feeling so many pains and pleasures, and the senses will also feel those pains and pleasures. Therefore the mind, which is there within the body, will also feel the pains and pleasures, and the soul will also be affected. How can you say that the soul is not affected? I cannot understand. Please instruct me."

Jada Bharata then explained the science of the soul. Covered by illusion, the living entity is actually living as if in a dream. In a dream state, a person may see that a tiger is coming to kill him. He will be afraid, seeing death just in front of him. However, when he wakes up, he sees that there was no tiger. It was just an illusion created by the mind. In the same way, the living entity within the material world, conditioned by the three modes of material nature, comes under the influence of those modes of nature and experiences many different interactions of the material energy.”

[Srila Narayana Maharaja:] There is a very good example to clarify this. There was a tree on the bank of a big pond. When a wind came, there were waves in the pond. Someone was looking at the reflection of the tree in the pond and thinking, "The tree is trembling." Actually, the tree was not trembling; rather, its reflection in the pond was moving. Similarly, the jiva, soul, has nothing to do with the sufferings and happiness of this body. He is always like that tree. The mind and body, which are the reflection of his contaminated consciousness, are suffering, and he thinks, "Oh, this is me suffering." If ones attachment will go away, then his consciousness will become very clear, like that of Jada Bharata. His vision was not covered by illusion, but King Rahugana still had that faulty vision We should try to realize this real fact, and do bhajana.

What is the essence of this history?

[Bhaktisar Maharaja:] Maharaja Rahugana was still confused. Although he was given many enlightening instructions, he still could not grasp the truths. Jada Bharata explained to him, "The absolute truth is understood as Brahma, Paramatma and Bhagavan.

rahuganaitat tapasa na yati
na cejyaya nirvapanad grhad va
na cchandasa naiva jalagni-suryair
vina mahat-pada-rajo-'bhisekam

["My dear King Rahugana, unless one has the opportunity to smear his entire body with the dust of the lotus feet of great devotees, one cannot realize the Absolute Truth. One cannot realize the Absolute Truth simply by observing celibacy (brahmacarya), strictly following the rules and regulations of householder life, leaving home as a vanaprastha, accepting sannyasa, or undergoing severe penances in winter by keeping oneself submerged in water or surrounding oneself in summer by fire and the scorching heat of the sun. There are many other processes to understand the Absolute Truth, but the Absolute Truth is only revealed to one who has attained the mercy of a great devotee." (SB 5.12.12)]

Bharata Maharaja said," Actually, my dear Rahugana, you cannot understand the Absolute truth unless you smear yourself – bathe yourself – in the dust of the lotus feet of a pure devotee of the Lord. All this will remain incomprehensible to you. It does not matter if you do tapasya, if you execute household life perfectly, if you are a brahmacari or if you take vanaprastha or sannyasa. It doesn't matter if you stay submerged in the water in the cold winter, or if you sit in the blazing sun in the summer. All these things will not make any difference in understanding the actual situation of the Absolute Truth, the living entity, and his relationship with that Absolute Truth. Only by associating with a maha-bhagavata (a great soul), will you realize these things. This is the essence of this instruction.

[Srila Narayana Maharaja:] Anything more to say?

[Syamarani dasi:] If someone is in a car accident and the car gets damaged, the person inside will feel suffering. This explains the analogy of the milk and rice getting hot with the pot. Jada Bharata explained in essence that the only way the person will feel miserable in the car is if he identifies himself as the proprietor of the car. If he does not think that he is the owner, or that he is the car, he feels no suffering. So one essence found in this instruction is that all misery is due to the illusion of identifying with the mind, which imagines that it is connected with material situations, like "I am the carrier of this palanquin so I am having trouble."

[Asrama Maharaja:] A very important point is that Jada Bharata is telling Maharaja Rahugana that one cannot know the highest truths simply by austerity, or just by following brahmacarya, sannyasa, etc. Theoretically one may try to understand how the soul is different from the body, etc, but actually we will not be able to be detached. The only way we can be detached is by "mahat-pada-rajo-'bhisekam", sadhu-sanga. Again and again this point is emphasized in Srimad-Bhagavatam and all other scriptures: If we want to achieve the goal, we will have to bathe ourselves in the dust of the lotus feet of sadhus. There is great potency in that dust; but how will that potency manifest to us? By surrendering ourselves to such sadhus and becoming instruments to carry out their will, those moods which are in sadhus will gradually come in our hearts. In this way we are really bathing in the dust of the sadhus, and in this way we will be able to realize these very subtle points in sastra. Theory is not enough; practical realization is needed, and that will only come by surrender to the lotus feet of sadhus.

[Srila Narayana Maharaja:] Very good. Anything else?

[Aranya Maharaja:] This history of Bharata Maharaja is extremely instructive. We find that in his first stage, when he was king of the world, he left his kingdom and came to the forest where he was doing his sadhana-bhajana alone. He was without association. At that time some attachment came to a baby deer. This attachment was very slight at first, but he could not check and it and it began to grow, day, by day, by day. It became deeper and deeper, until it uprooted his spiritual practices When he chanted his gayatri, he was not chanting gayatri; he was only remembering that deer, wondering, "Will the deer come and stick his nose under my arm while I am chanting?" In this way his spiritual practices became ruined. The teaching here is that the living entity in this world, even in a somewhat advanced stage, is susceptible to be deviated by the material energy, because he is very tiny and the material energy is very powerful. At that time it is absolutely essential that he stay under the guidance of a pure devotee. That pure devotee will then impart to him spiritual strength. He can then overcome all the transformations in the heart caused by the material energy, and continue to make progress on the spiritual path.

There is another teaching here. Bharata Maharaja remembered the deer at the end of his life, and in his next life he became a deer. This gives evidence to support the principle:

yam yam vapi smaran bhavam
tyajaty ante kalevaram
tam tam evaiti kaunteya
sada tad-bhava-bhavitah
(BG 8.6)

Krsna explains in Gita: "Whatever consciousness you are absorbed in at the time of death, you must attain that state." Therefore, if one is serious about becoming an associate of Sri Sri Radha and Krsna in Vrndavana, then this same principle will apply.

On the basis of this principle, Srila Rupa Gosvamipada has written:

krsnam smaran janam casya
prestham nija-samihitam
tat-tat-katha-ratas casau
kuryad vasam vraje sada

This is the sadhana or the practice of raganuga-bhakti, by which one can attain Vrndavana. One must remember Krsna, but only remembering Krsna is not enough. Krsnam smaran janam casya: One should remember Krsna along with one of His very dear associates Prestham nija-samihitam: if one wants to serve Krsna like Mother Yasoda, he should remember Mother Yasoda. If he wants to serve Krsna like His friends, he should be absorbed in the services of Subala, Madhumangala and other cowherd boys. And, if one wants to serve Krsna like the gopis, he will have to remember gopis like Sri Rupa Manjari and Sri Rati Manjari. Tat-tat-katha-ratas casau – always be absorbed in topics about that particular associate of Sri Sri Radha and Krsna. And kuryad vasam vraje sada – in one's heart, and better than that, physically and also by heart, one should always reside in Vrndavana. If one will pass his life in this way, following in the moods of a particular associate of Radha and Krsna, then, at the time of death one will easily become an associate of Radha and Krsna – just as Bharata Maharaja, without any effort at all, easily became a deer by thinking of a deer at the time of death. This is the essence of the history of Bharata Maharaja.

[Srila Narayana Maharaja:] if anyone totally surrenders like Bharata Maharaja, he can develop his Krsna consciousness. He was once taken by dacoits who prepared to kill him. They told him, "You should put on this reddish cloth and take some prasadam." Without any hesitation he accepted these things, laughing. He had no fear of death. Can we be like that? Krsna-prema is not so easy. First be like that. A pure devotee is totally surrendered; and he has knowledge of the soul and his relation with the Supersoul.

We should be like Jada Bharata, or like Srila Haridasa Thakura, who had no fear of death, and Sri Prahlada Maharaja was the same. Jada Bharata was smiling when the dacoits were ready to cut off his head. Why was he smiling? He saw their swords, but he never feared. He thought, "Marobi rakhobi jo iccha tohara nitya-dasa prati tuwa adhikari." O Krsna, I have given my life and soul to You. Now my life depends on what You may want to do with it. You may want to keep me in this world or You may want to take me with You. In either case I am very happy. If I go to You, I will serve You there; and here, I will preach Your mission and be happy. So it depends on what You want."

A devotee should be like this; otherwise he cannot come out of illusion. He should first be surrendered to his Gurudeva. If he is not surrendered to Gurudeva, he cannot surrender to Lord Krsna. He must obey his Guru, and then he can obey Krsna. Without this Krsna will not accept his application – his prayer.

One thing more – if you want to develop your Krsna consciousness, don't try to show off your bhakti to others. Keep it like camphor in your heart. If burning camphor is kept in a closed room, its fragrance increases. If kept in an open doorway it evaporates.

Be like Bharata Maharaja, who never told anyone about his advancement in devotion. Only out of mercy he spoke to Rahugana, and not to others, for he was hiding his wealth. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu prayed, "Na prema-gandho 'sti darapi me harau. – I have not a trace, or even a shadow, of prema – I have nothing." If someone would ask Him, "Then why You are weeping?" He would reply, "I am weeping so that all will praise Me. If a fish is taken out of water, she dies at once, in a moment. But as far as I am concerned, I am not meeting with Krsna, and I am tolerating the separation. So how can I say I have prema?"

Srila Narottama Thakura has written in Prema Bhakti Candrika (verse 9), "Apana bhajana-katha, na kahiba jatha tatha. Don't tell anyone, 'I have seen Krsna in my dream. I have realized Krsna. Sometimes I weep bitterly for Krsna. I chant sixty-four rounds of harinama.' Or 'I can speak very nicely; better than anyone.' You must hide everything – if you want to develop your Krsna-prema."

What about Ambarisa Maharaja?

[Syamarani dasi:] Ambarisa Maharaja was a great king – so great that although he was king of the entire planet, he considered all the opulence of the world as insignificant as a piece of stone. He engaged all of his senses in the service of the Lord; first his mind in the lotus feet of Krsna, then his nostrils in smelling the incense offered to the Lord, and so on. He was such a great king that, by his association and instructions, all his citizens also used to absorb themselves in hearing and chanting about the glories of the Lord. They also felt that even great mystic opulence, heavenly planets, and other such pleasures were insignificant.

Ambarisa Maharaja is a devotee in bhava-bhakti. That is, he has achieved svarupa-siddhi, serving the Lord with his spiritual body internally; and externally, with his sadhaka's body, he is serving the Deity with great opulence and pomp. Internally he is engaged in serving with his spiritual body, and remembering the Lord's asta-kaliya-lila. Externally he is also going to the holy places and engaging in the activities relevant to raganuga-bhakti.

Ambarisa Maharaja is a perfect example of one who follows Ekadasi. He was observing Ekadasi as a three-day fast, and now he wanted to break his Ekadasi fasting by taking parana (drinking water or eating foodstuffs appropriate to ending the particular fast). If parana is not taken at the proper time, the Ekadasi vow is not complete. Ambarisa Maharaja was about to take his parana, but just at that moment Durvasa Muni came, uninvited and unexpected. Durvasa Muni was a great sage and brahmana. Naturally, when a brahmana comes to one's house, one stops what he is doing and offers the brahmana something to eat. Ambarisa Maharaja welcomed him, saying, "Please take your bath and then we will have some prasadam for you."

Durvasa Muni went to the Yamuna to take bath. During that time the clock was ticking away and the time allotted for parana was almost over. Ambarisa Maharaja had to make a decision: "Should I offend a brahmana and go to hell for eating before him in order to observe Ekadasi, or should I offend Ekadasi and lose my bhakti?" Ekadasi is bhakti-janani, the mother of bhakti – the birthplace of bhakti. Ekadasi is also Krsna Himself, and more important than even Janmastami. Ambarisa Maharaja decided, "Even if I am in hell, if I have my bhakti, my life will be successful. I will not even be offending the brahmana, because I will only drink water. According to sastra, this is neither eating nor not eating. It is both eating and not eating. So the brahmana should not be angry with me." He confirmed his decision with his saintly brahmana advisors, following the varnasrama system. Though he was a pure devotee, being a ksatriya, he confirmed his decision by consulting the brahmanas, and then he drank caranamrta water

Meanwhile, Durvasa Muni was bathing in the Yamuna River. He had the ability to be in trance and see what was happening outside of his sensual recollection, and therefore he was able to understand that Ambarisa Maharaja was drinking something before he, the honored guest, had returned. He became furious and went back to the King's palace. He spoke very angry, cruel words to Ambarisa Maharaja, who responded humbly and stood with folded palms. That was not sufficient for Durvasa Rsi, however, who tried to kill him by pulling out a matted lock of his hair, which turned into a fiery demoness that attacked Ambarisa Maharaja. Ambarisa Maharaja stood meditating on the Lord, who reciprocated by sending to Durvasa His Sudarsana-cakra, His weapon which destroys the entire universe at the time of annihilation. Durvasa Muni ran for his life – in the valleys, in the mountains, and everywhere else. He went to Lord Brahma for protection, but Brahma would not help him. He then went to Lord Siva, who sent him to Lord Visnu. They had a conversation and he was demanding protection, but Lord Visnu was becoming increasingly angry with him, saying, "You don't deserve protection. Ambarisa Maharaja is fully dependent on Me and thus wasn't afraid of your weapon. But you – when My own weapon came – you ran without any faith in Me at all. I don't have the power to save you, because My mind is not with Me. My mind lives in My devotee, as My devotee lives in My heart. So you will have to go back to Ambarisa Maharaja if you want to be saved."

This running of Durvasa Muni took an entire year. During that year Ambarisa Maharaja was fasting, not blaming Durvasa Muni at all, but rather blaming himself. He considered, "Because of me, this brahmana is undergoing so much suffering." He had been praying to Sudarsana-cakra, "Please don't burn him; be cool and peaceful. If I have done any service to the Lord, if I have performed any austerities and you are pleased with me, then please stop chasing after Durvasa Muni and threatening to burn him." The Sudarsana Cakra stopped, and Durvasa Muni reached Ambarisa Maharaja and begged forgiveness. Immediately Ambarisa Maharaja said, "Yes, Take the results of my pious activities and be delivered." He was extremely loving, and at the same time and renounced.

Maharaja Ambarisa sumptuously fed Durvasa Muni, who was so impressed with his wonderful Vaisnava behavior that he himself became a Vaisnava. Actually, he already was a Vaisnava. In fact, he was a premi-bhakta. He was not like a false devotee, who always wants others to look bad so that he can look good. He did not care that he looked bad, just so that Ambarisa Maharaja could be glorified as a great and humble Vaisnava in spite of all odds.

Although Ambarisa Maharaja was very concerned about breaking his Ekadasi fast at the exact right moment, he was fasting for the entire year while Durvasa Muni was running about the universe in fear. So how is that he skipped all of his Dvadasi-vratas, his vows of breaking his fasts at the right moment? Srila Gurudeva explained previously that because he is a self-realized soul, he does not really have to follow Ekadasi. He does it as an example for us: we should be ready to sacrifice anything, and even be prepared to go to hell, as long as we can keep our bhakti.

[Srila Narayana Maharaja:] He was fasting for the entire year. He followed Nirjala Ekadasi, fasting from even water, for the entire year. What is the essence?

[Syamarani dasi:] The essence of this history is that Maharaja Ambarisa engaged all of his senses in the service of the Lord, and he did not care for any material disturbance at all. He did not care that Durvasa was attempting to kill him; he did not care about his relationship with anyone before his relationship with bhakti, and he did not care about going to hell or heaven. He only cared about his bhakti.

Srila Gurudeva tells this story about Ambarisa Maharaja as one example of a suddha-pure-bhakti. The level of bhakti can be understood in terms of the barometer of the verse beginning, "anyabhilasita sunyam". Bharata Maharaja fell down due his attachment to a deer. Prahlada Maharaja was so great in his prema, but he could not render personal service to the Lord because he knew of the Lord's opulences. Ambarisa Maharaja comes next, as superior, because, even though he was not in the stage of prema – he was in the stage of bhava-bhakti and serving with his sadhaka body, not with his spiritually perfected body – still, he was always engaged with all of his senses and mind in the service of Krsna.

[Srila Narayana Maharaja:] Like Jada Bharata, Ambarisa Maharaja had no fear of death Death was standing in front of him, and yet prayed to the Lord’s ultimate weapon, Sudarsana-cakra, "Oh, save this brahmana." He did not pray for himself. On the other hand, Durvasa Muni, a brahma-rsi, was running here and there to save himself. So in this case, Jada Bharata and Ambarisa Maharaja are the same. But Ambarisa Maharaja was superior. His bhakti was higher than that of Jada Bharata. Jada Bharata was a jnani-bhakta, like Prahlada Maharaja, and he knew about the soul; but Ambarisa Maharaja was more than that. He was a pure bhakta, living in Vrndavana with greed for vraja-bhakti. Jada Bharata had nothing to do with vraja-bhakti. He was a bhakta, but not like that. He never meditated on Vraja. On the other hand, Ambarisa Maharaja was following all Ekadasis and maha-Dvadasis in Vraja, doing parikrama throughout Vraja-mandala, going to Varsana, Nandagaon, Vrndavana rasa-sthali, Govardhana, and so many other places of Sri Sri Radha-Krsna’s pastimes; so he is superior.

[This ends part 1 of the lecture. In part 2, Srila Narayana Maharaja discusses still more exalted devotees.]

Editorial Advisors: Pujyapad Madhava Maharaja and Sripad Brajanatha dasa
Editor: Syamarani dasi
Typists: Vasanti dasi and Anita dasi

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