śrī śrī guru gaurāṅga jayataḥ!
Year-5, Issue 2
Posted: 13 March, 2012
nitya-līlā praviṣṭa oṁ viṣṇupāda
Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja
Inspired by and under the guidance of
nitya-līlā praviṣṭa oṁ viṣṇupāda
Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja
Are Tests Really Just a Form of Compassion?
by Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda
Question 1: Who is Śrī Caitanyadeva?
Answer: Śrī Caitanyadeva is not a figure from two thousand or ten thousand years ago. He is the Eternal Being. He is the Supreme Being (puruṣottama). He is without beginning (anādi), He is the beginning of everything (sarvādi) and He is the cause of all causes. He does not appear within the confines of time, and yet past, present and future are all manifested by Him alone. He is the eternal, Supreme Entity (vastu). He has no body of bones and flesh. He is the primeval personality mentioned in the Purāṇas. He is the Supreme doer (kartā), He is the Supreme Absolute Spirit (param-brahma), the Supreme Soul (Paramātmā) and He is Bhagavān – the Supreme Lord of all the uncountable phenomenal universes. He is Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself, He is the source of all incarnations (avatārī), He is the Prime Mover* (Parameśvara), and He is Svayam Bhagavān (the self-manifest, self-originating Supreme Personality of Godhead).
* Primum movens is a Latin term coined by Aristotle that refers to God who inspires everything else to act, or move, without moving or being moved Himself.
Śrī Caitanyadeva is kṛpam-budhi – the ocean of compassion. No one can show as much compassion as He can. Such unlimited compassion was never displayed by any other incarnation of the Lord. His compassion took the form of granting the highest qualification to the most unqualified people. It is the absolutely complete form of compassion, which grants an everlasting blessing – Bhagavān gave Himself, for Himself. This kind of mercy had never been heard of before.
The karmīs, yogīs and jñānīs are unable to see the beauty of the love that He has distributed. Only the most fortunate souls are able to see it. This is why I say – you should leave aside all other conceptions that may exist in this world and devote some of your time to listening to the words of Śrī Caitanyadeva. If you spend time listening to His extraordinary philosophical conceptions, which make all other philosophies seem insignificant, then that form of adoration of God (bhagavad-upāsana), which is the path of real peace, will surely appear, and it will lead us to a state in which we are inclined, for example, to nurture the Supreme Lord as our own son. Our moods only become meaningful when we are able to completely dedicate them unto the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord. The five transcendental relationships – namely śānta (dispassionate love of God), dāsya (love of God in the mood of a servant), sakhya (love of God in the mood of a friend), vātsalya (love of God in the mood of a parent) and mādhurya (transcendental amour) – exist in all completeness within the Supreme Lord, but we will be unable to gain transcendental knowledge of the Lord if we engage our moods in the worldly counterparts of these five instead of dedicating them to the Supreme Lord Himself.
The Supreme Lord is composed of all knowledge and is full of pleasure, and to know Him, I have gone to every possible place. But when that same master of Goloka appears nearby my house [in Māyāpura] – in the form of Gaurāṅga, having come there just to deliver the topmost message of transcendence to me, if I am not ready to listen to Him, if I am too busy with other endeavours to hear Him, then how will I receive His blessing?
Question 2: The verse beginning sarva dharman parityajya from Bhagavad-gītā is most eminent. Why did Śrī Gaurāṅgadeva proclaim that such a celebrated instruction was external?
Answer: When Śrī Rāmānanda Rāya brought up this exalted teaching from Śrī Bhagavad-gītā, “sarva dharman parityajya – give up all other duties and fully surrender unto Me”, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu proclaimed, “eho bahya, āge kaha āra – this is external, please go deeper.” Why did He say this?
Bhakti is the natural function of the eternal soul. It is not something for which Bhagavān should have to promise the reward of a certificate of achievement in order to entice people to become devotees. True devotees, bound by pure love, are by their very nature constantly trying to fill the Supreme Lord with pleasure.
If a father were required to make special efforts to convince his son to be dedicated to him, then what would remain for common people to appreciate about the virtue of being a son? Is such an arrangement not opposite to the fact that the true devotee engages in service to the Lord spontaneously, simply out of love?
This instruction is for the blossoming devotee who has hitherto not only forgotten the Supreme Lord, but has forgotten his own true self, his eternal constitutional position and his eternal existence; who has become the master of the temporary and who has been enrolled in the service of temporary things since time immemorial. Hence, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu declared that this celebrated teaching was external, and, for the purpose of propagating the teachings of śuddha-bhakti, or pure devotional service, throughout the world, He tried to inform all people about the topmost form of devotion – the devotion of the residents of Vraja.
Question 3: Are tests really just a form of compassion?
Answer: In order to promote students to the next grade level, teachers mercifully make arrangements to examine them. For sincere and intelligent students, these exams are pleasurable. Only careless students become sad and fearful of examinations.
Those who preach the message of sense gratification and instruct people to behave in accordance with their own base propensities hardly encounter any inconveniences, hurdles or problems in the course of their preaching. But when one sets out to teach the message of service to the Supreme Lord; about the eternal constitutional position of the living being; about bhakti, which is actually the life and soul of every living entity; he faces difficulties at every step, and these obstacles tend to discourage him.
Those who have taken shelter of the path of devotion should know this for certain: these disturbances, inconveniences or hurdles have arrived to test our inclination to serve and please the Supreme Lord, and to help us excel more and more in the path of devotional service. When these tests come, one should remember the ideals of service, tolerance and patience demonstrated by Nāmācārya Śrīla Haridāsa Ṭhākura and Bhaktarāja Śrī Prahlāda Mahārāja, and never let his determination wane.
We deprive ourselves for hundreds and hundreds of lifetimes by busying ourselves in acquiring temporary things. There are countless examples of people bravely overcoming severe obstacles and even sacrificing their lives for petty mundane things. In light of this, can not intelligent persons – those with the extreme fortune of being devotees – dedicate their brief lifetime, bravely overcoming any number of problems, to serve that Supreme Lord, who was the Absolute Truth before time began, who is the Absolute Truth in the present, and who will be the Absolute Truth for all eternity?
Question 4: Why do people go on pilgrimage?
Answer: The sacred sites where Bhagavān and His bhaktas have engaged in pastimes are called tīrthas, and they are venerated as holy places of pilgrimage. Those who have accumulated sufficient spiritual merit (sukṛti) go on pilgrimage in order to gain the association of and service to the devotees of the Supreme Lord, and, as a result, ultimately attain service to the Supreme Lord Himself.
On the other hand, wicked people, despite maintaining strong propensities to commit sin, go on pilgrimage for periodic absolution of their sins and to earn mundane recognition. But the great devotees of the Supreme Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who are His dearly beloved, perform the pastime of visiting places of pilgrimage in order to convert atīrtha (a place that is not holy) into tīrtha (a place that is holy) and to purify any tīrtha that has gradually been maligned by the sins of countless sinful people. These exalted devotees, intoxicated by the ecstasy of eternal service to the Supreme Lord, search for their Lord at these sacred sites in the mood of divine separation.
Translated by the Rays of The Harmonist team
from Śrīla Prabhupādera Upadeśāmṛta
Questions re-numbered for this on-line presentation
Śrīla Prabhupādera Upadeśāmṛta is a compilation of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda’s instructions in question-and-answer form.