śrī śrī guru gaurāṅga jayataḥ!
Year-2, Issue 1 & Year 15, Issue 1
Posted: 14 February 2009 & 21 February 2022
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
By what means can we gain the courage for self-surrender?
by Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Prabhupāda
Question 1: Is it proper to endeavour for personal happiness while neglecting devotional service?
Answer: Never. Endeavours for personal happiness are non-devotional (abhakti). A person who always remains busy with his own happiness and freedom, leaving aside service to Hari, guru and Vaiṣṇavas, will never be the recipient of any service from others, despite his desire for it. Instead, he will be neglected and disliked by all. On the other hand, millions upon millions of people, and even Mahāprabhu Himself, will be ready to serve that person who disregards his own happiness and comfort, yet remains continuously engaged in service to śrī guru and Kṛṣṇa, with his body, mind and words.
Question 2: With what attitude should we chant the name of Śrī Bhagavān?
Answer: Śuddha-bhaktas (pure devotees) never call out to Bhagavān to destroy their own sin, to accumulate piety or attain the heavenly planets, or to dispel a famine, epidemic, disturbance of the peace, revolution or disease. Nor do they call out to Him to attain objects for their enjoyment, such as wealth or a kingdom. The very names of Śrī Bhagavān directly indicate the Supreme Controller (Parameśvara) Himself. If we attempt to engage that Supreme Lord in accomplishing any act for our personal sense enjoyment, it means that we are trying to appoint Him, our most worshipful object, as our servant. This is a great offence.
Therefore, unless we call out to Bhagavān for the sake of serving Him, our calling Him will go in vain. Jesus Christ has said, “Do not take God’s name in vain.” But this does not imply that we are not to call out to Him continuously – while sleeping, dreaming, eating, or during times of recreation – and at any time and in any place. If we call out to Bhagavān with a desire to serve Him, then our call will not go in vain; indeed it is our sole obligation. However, if we merely imitate the process of genuinely calling to Him by soliciting Him to fulfill our personal desires then our effort will be in vain. That the name of Bhagavān should not be taken in vain means that one should not call His name with a desire to attain dharma (religiosity), artha (material prosperity), kāma (selfish gratification) or mokṣa (liberation); rather, the sole reason one should continuously call to Him is to serve Him.
Question 3: What is the difference between the soul, the mind and the body?
Answer: Scripture has delineated the distinctive differences between the soul, the mind and the body, and has given the subtle analysis of them as a spiritual spark, a shadow of spirit, and inert matter, respectively. The soul is the owner of the two other substances – namely the body and mind. The body and mind belong to the soul, and in turn the soul belongs to the Supersoul. The soul has two coverings: one is the subtle covering called the mind and the other is the gross covering called the body.
The external material body is the aggregate of the five gross elements, while the internal body, or mental body, is that which drives the external body. Through its connection with the mind, the soul, in its confined state, is bound with incompatible possessions in the form of the physical body. The soul is in a dormant state at present, so it is not aware of service to the Supersoul. Seeing that the soul, their owner, is asleep, these two subordinate workers, the mind and body, fulfil their own narrow-minded interests instead of fulfilling the interests of their proprietor.
The mind’s nature is to waver, but the soul is unchanging and eternal. The function of the mind is to enjoy and to renounce, while the function of the soul is to serve Śrī Bhagavān. The mind can comprehend objects that have up to three dimensions; it has no capacity to understand objects of the fourth dimension because they are beyond sense perception. Through worldly knowledge and experience one cannot comprehend the Supreme Absolute Truth, Śrī Bhagavān, who is beyond the scope of material senses.
Question 4: How, then, will I become acquainted with such transcendental subject matters?
Answer: Just as a messenger brings news of one’s relatives who live in a distant land, a transcendental messenger bears transcendental news. Whoever does not become the recipient of his transcendental message is understood to be extremely unfortunate, for that transcendental messenger will certainly deliver his message to anyone who is truly eager for it.
Question 5: How will we recognize a messenger from Vaikuṇṭha and the authenticity of his message?
Answer: If our prayers become sincere and honest, then by the mercy of Bhagavān, who is omniscient, everything will be revealed to us. A student can recognize an erudite scholar only with the help of another erudite scholar. Śrī Bhagavān, who resides in our heart, will help us in every aspect of our life. We only have to depend on Him exclusively.
If we want to acquire knowledge of some entity, there are two means by which we can do so. The first means is through knowledge and experience pertaining to this world. But in the case of transcendental entities, the experience and knowledge of this world are to be considered incomplete. Thus the second means is to exclusively surrender one’s self to that great personality who has descended from the same realm as that transcendental entity. By hearing from him we can gain an understanding of that entity.
Question 6: Material knowledge and experience are our sole resource. How can rejecting them help us surrender to a supra-mundane being?
Answer: One cannot progress successfully if he fears the process of surrender, thinking it to be difficult. If we want to know the Absolute Truth, we will need immense spiritual strength of heart. We cannot learn the art of swimming if we fear the mere sight of water. The process of surrender is not a very difficult matter; rather, for the soul it is easy and natural. Whatever is opposed to surrender is unnatural for the soul and painful.
Question 7: By what means can we gain the courage to surrender our very self?
Answer: We have to hear hari-kathā from a bona fide representative of Bhagavān. When we listen to him speak, we must shut out all of our worldly experience, knowledge and flawed logic. As we continue to hear the transcendentally powerful and valorous narrations of Bhagavān from a living sādhu, unwanted obstructions (anarthas) like weak-heartedness will gradually be removed. At that time unprecedented courage will enter our heart and selfless surrender, the natural propensity of the soul, will be fully awakened. In such a surrendered heart the self-manifesting Absolute Truth of the transcendental realm will reveal Himself. This is the only way we can know the Absolute Truth, for it is impossible by any other means to know that truth, which is free from any trace of deceit.
Translated from Śrīla Prabhupāder Upadeśāmṛta
Questions re-numbered for the monthly on-line editions
CC-BY-SA Rays of The Harmonist No.21 (Gaura Pūrṇimā 2010)
Śrīla Prabhupadera Upadeśāmṛta is a compilation of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda’s instructions in question-and-answer form.