śrī śrī guru gaurāṅga jayataḥ!
Year 2, Issue 6 & Year 15, Issue 7
Posted: 13 June 2009 & 18 July 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 Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda
Why are we not realizing Bhagavān?
by Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda
Question 1: How can we achieve our transcendental welfare?
Answer: One invites terrible trouble by becoming a gṛha-vrata (one who has accepted a vow to remain in family life), or a gṛha-asakta (one who is attached to his home and family). If, however, we remain under the guidance of that śrī gurudeva who is at every moment engaged in service to Śrī Kṛṣṇa and render service to him, all our troubles will cease to exist.
There is no way to obtain our transcendental welfare other than by following in the footsteps of the devotees of the Lord (bhagavad-bhaktas). Service to gurudeva, who is bhagavat-preṣṭha, most dear to Bhagavān, is even more beneficial than directly serving Him, the Original Being. We shall indeed receive the utmost benefit by serving śrī guru. Even the most fallen souls obtain deliverance by rendering service to śrī guru. Those who are seeking their own true welfare shall certainly engage in service to śrī guru and the Vaiṣṇavas with utmost care and respect.
What is service to śrī guru and the Vaiṣṇavas? Śrī guru and the Vaiṣṇavas do not engage in anything other than service to Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Rendering service to śrī guru and the Vaiṣṇavas means to assist them in their service to Bhagavān and to blissfully follow their instructions without any hesitation or doubt.
Therefore, the guidance (anugatya) of śrī guru is essential under all circumstances. To vainly disregard the guidance of śrī guru and then to serve Śrī Kṛṣṇa on one’s own only leads to discomfort. One is completely ruined by disobeying or disapproving of śrī guru. To think ‘I am serving Śrī Hari’ is sheer arrogance. This arrogance alone is the first and foremost cause of one’s fall-down.
By trying to find flaws in śrī guru and the Vaiṣṇavas, one is inevitably inviting his own doom. Nothing other than service to śrī guru can be beneficial or auspicious for the jīva.
Busying oneself in the search for one’s own pleasure results in inauspiciousness. Without becoming one-pointed one cannot render service to Kṛṣṇa. And it is not possible to become one-pointed unless one serves śrī guru. There is no means of deliverance for the soul bound by māyā other than service to śrī guru and the Vaiṣṇavas.
Question 2: Is Śrī Rādhā the original spiritual master?
Answer: The foremost transcendental, pleasure giving potency (hlādinī-svarūpa parā-śakti) Śrī Rādhā, is the sole guru of all devotees. Not only this, She is even the guru of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who, accepting a position as Her disciple, learns the art of dancing.
Pure devotees (śuddha-bhaktas) who are in a rasa other than madhura-rasa (conjugal love), consider Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu to be the original spiritual master. However, for those rasika devotees who are in madhura-rasa, the original guru is Śrī Rādhikā Herself.
Question 3: Why are we not attaining God-realization?
Answer: How is it possible to attain realization of Bhagavān if the jīva, who is constitutionally a servant of the Lord, is not constantly associating with and serving Bhagavān and His bhaktas? If I am occupied with my worldly, material affairs, then how will I receive any response from Jagad-īśvara, the master of the universe?
Over-powered by wicked desires I have now become so evil-minded that I have developed a relationship with this world that promises to last well into the future. This wicked intelligence of mine has developed simply due to my aloofness from the Original Fountain Head. Just as by stepping on quicksand the foot is swallowed up, by depending on the phenomenon of treacherous soil, we are drowning.
Instead of becoming inclined towards Kṛṣṇa, we, who are possessed of evil desires, spend our time in endeavours that are averse to Him. The external potency (māyā) of Śrī Viṣṇu has captured us by making us enjoyers, or material activists. Therefore we should be very cautious. We essentially require the guidance of a governor, that is, śrī guru, at every step.
Service to the devotees promises more than service to the Lord Himself. The association of the bhaktas is even more beneficial than the association of the Lord. The living place of the bhakta, the abode of śrīla gurudeva, is more favourable for śuddha-bhajana (pure, loving devotional service) than the abode of the Lord. ‘yathāya vaiṣṇavagaṇa, sei sthane vṛndāvana – wherever the Vaiṣṇava resides, that very place is Vṛndāvana, the abode of Kṛṣṇa”.
It is important to properly understand this. If we are apathetic towards guru-seva, we will not be able to become a true servant; rather, we will become arrogant. In other words, we will remain bound in the current of thought that relates to the external world alone.
Throughout the entire theistic world, there is no subject superior to that of service to the lotus feet of Śrī Śrī Rādhā Govinda. It is therefore necessary to constantly engage in hearing hari-kathā so that we do not end up deprived of service to Adhokṣaja (He who is beyond the reach of the material senses), perceiving ourselves to be the controller, instead.
We ought to intensely focus on our hari-bhajana because many lifetimes have already passed in other activities. We must therefore take perpetual care to achieve the topmost goal in this very life. When, with extreme care, we constantly engage in service to śrī guru and Kṛṣṇa with love and attention, we shall definitely be able to realize Bhagavān.
Question 4: Why is there so much suffering in this world?
Answer: Śrī Bhagavān says that all this suffering, pain, misery and calamity has been enacted, not to make you grief stricken, but to teach you that suffering is unwanted. You can then search after that happiness which is prayed for eternally; that bliss which is always sought after.
Question 5: How is hearing or speaking about mundane topics (gramya-kathā) harmful, or unfavourable, to one’s bhakti?
Answer: Śrīman Mahāprabhu has said:
grāmya-kathā nā śunibe, grāmya-vārtā nā kahibe
bhāla nā khāibe āra bhāla nā paribe
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Antya-līlā 6.236)
Do not listen to the mundane talk of common men or engage in discussions about mundane topics. Do not eat palatable foodstuffs or dress yourself nicely.
This statement has been made solely for those who have deep faith in hari-bhajana and an intense taste for it. Eating highly palatable foodstuffs mostly only causes harm to one’s own self; it does not cause so much of a disturbance to others. In other words, eating palatable foodstuffs does not obstruct the hari-bhajana of others. Still, the urge of the tongue is not beneficial since it is harmful to one’s own bhakti. Śrīman Mahāprabhu has also said:
jihvāra lālase yei iti-uti dhāya
śiśnodara-parāyaṇa kṛṣṇa nāhi pāya
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Antya-līlā 6.237)
Being carried away by the urge of the tongue, one who runs here and there seeking palatable food, thus making the satisfaction of his belly and genitals his principal objective, cannot attain Kṛṣṇa.
Wearing very nice clothes, however, is quite harmful to others, since people only wear stylish clothing for the sake of others. What does this mean? The only purpose in dressing stylishly is to distract people’s eyes and minds away from hari-bhajana and make them bid it farewell.
Hearing worldly mundane talk causes oneself more harm than eating delicious food, and by speaking about mundane topics, one causes more harm to others than by wearing stylish clothes. Ordinary, or mundane, talks are just like a prostitute in that they cause immense obstacles to one’s hari-bhajana by polluting and distracting ones mind.
One who has great interest in these useless talks will surely lack a natural taste for hari-kathā. This is to be clearly understood. Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī has said, “asad-vārtā veśya visṛja mati-sarvasva-haraṇīḥ – Please abandon altogether the prostitute of contemptible mundane talk, which plunders the entire treasure of pure wisdom.”
When five people sit together, they will definitely engage in useless talk. This is why the devotees always remain engaged in speaking hari-kathā. When hari-kathā is being spoken, no one has an opportunity to engage in useless mundane talk.
Those who wish to perform hari-bhajana will not listen to ordinary mundane topics or speak about them, nor will they give their attention to eating palatable food or wearing stylish clothes. This is because the desire for such activities, or interest in them, will definitely cast one far from the path of hari-bhajana.
One can never perform hari-bhajana if one desires to eat palatable food or wear nice clothes. Moreover, the desire for and interest in hearing and speaking ordinary mundane topics will alienate the jīva from hari-bhajana and lead him down the wrong path. Thus he would bid hari-bhajana farewell. Consequently, it is particularly essential for one who sincerely desires to perform hari-bhajana to exercise extreme caution in these matters. Otherwise one’s ruin is inevitable.
Translated by the Rays of The Harmonist team
from Śrīla Prabhupadera Upadeśāmṛta
Questions re-numbered for this on-line presentation
Śrīla Prabhupadera Upadeśāmṛta is a compilation of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda’s instructions in question-and-answer form.