The news of a Vaisnava's disappearance and therefore our separation from him is very painful, but everything happens by the will of Krishna, therefore we must tolerate and continue to steadily proceed towards our transcendental destination. Many adverse things may happen on the battlefield but, with the order of a general, a good soldier must proceed. We actually have no other way than to try to proceed.
We can see an example in the time of Mahaprabhu when Srivasa Pandit's son died in his house while Mahaprabhu was chanting the Hare Krishna Mahamantra and dancing there. Srivasa's mind was calm but other relatives felt much grief though they didn't cry aloud for fear of disturbing Mahaprabhu's singing and dancing. Mahaprabhu, however, felt that something was wrong because he was not feeling full joyfulness. When He asked if anything was amiss Srivasa did not own up to what had happened, instead he told Mahaprabhu that all was well and urged Him to continue. Instead, Mahaprabhu said, "No, I think something has happened here. What has happened and why are you hiding it from Me?" Srivasa replied, "Yes, Prabhu, this has happened: my son has passed away. But I did not want to disturb Your mood."
Mahaprabhu then went to see that boy and asked him, "Why are you leaving us?" To which the boy, though dead, replied, "Through Your will everything happens. By Your will I took my birth here as the son of Srivasa Pandit due to my good karma, but now my time in this body has finished and by Your will I am now going to another situation. This is happening all over the world and it is one of the rules of this plane, but I am so fortunate as I have received Your mercy and association."
Hearing this from the dead boy everyone became very stunned. Then they all chanted and danced with Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and took his body from the house. This incident happened in the presence of Mahaprabhu, so what can we say about our present situation?
There is a story of another incident which is said to have happened in the time of Buddha. A lady had just one son but he died, so she went to Buddha and prayed, "You are an incarnation of the Lord, so please you bring back my son's life."
Buddha replied, "Yes I can, but something is necessary in order to bring back his life."
She prayed, "Please tell me what you need and I shall supply it."
Buddha said, "Go from house to house in the village and bring some mustard seeds from any household where there has been no death in their family. With those seeds I shall give life to your boy."
The woman was very simple-hearted and she went from house to house asking, "Please tell me whether in your family there has been no death. From such a household I need to collect some mustard seeds so that Mahapurusa Buddha can bring back my son's life." But in every house she would receive a similar reply, "Oh, my father has died," "My uncle has died," "My brother has died," etc.
She then very sadly went back to Lord Buddha and, in tears, she told him, "Oh Lord, I have not been able to bring such seeds to you."
"Oh, what happened? In this village could you not find any household in which no one had left their body?"
She replied, "This is so."
To which Buddha said, "But why are you crying? This is the nature of the mundane plane."
In Srimad Bhagavad-gita Krishna says:
jatasya hi dhruvo mrtyur, dhruvam janma mrtasya cha
"The nature of this mundane plane is that for one who has taken birth, death is certain." And:
vasamsi jirnani yatha vihaya,
"Just as we leave aside old, worn out cloth and accept new clothing, similarly it is the nature of the jiva in this plane to leave his old body and take a new one."
A soul who is very fortunate will receive a good, auspicious body in which he can have the chance to practise Krishna consciousness.
Krishna in Bhagavad-gita also gave some remedy to leave everything in this mundane plane:
janma karma cha me divyam, evam yo veti tattvatah
"Who can understand properly who I am, what is My birth, and what is My disappearance, he will not again take another birth in the material plane." That proper understanding comes through transcendental knowledge from Sri Guru and the Vaisnavas and with that he achieves real liberation.
muktir hitvanyatha rupam, sva-rupena vyavastitih
One is not liberated if on leaving this body he will take another body. Nor is it real liberation if one simply does not take another body. Real liberation is when the soul enters with service into the transcendental world—muktir hitvanyatha rupam, sva-rupena vyavastitih. By the association and mercy of devotees it is possible to achieve this. If we follow in the footsteps of a devotee who is always running behind service to Krishna, then we can also easily gain entrance in that service world.
Another quote is,
muktapi lilaya vigraham krtva bhagavantam bhajante
Amongst the ordinary "liberated" souls a few are very fortunate and they also may receive the chance to enter into the transcendental service world. They have no attachment with the mundane world and also they have little or no attachment with the transcendental world. They are living in the tatastha, borderline, position but by the grace of the Vaisnavas they also receive the chance to enter into the service world.
atmaramas cha munayo
Explaining this verse Mahaprabhu said that one quality of Krishna is that He attracts even the liberated souls. Those who have no attachment to this mundane plane and are self-satisfied with their transcendental position, whether liberated or still in this world, are also attracted by the devotional mood. They also aspire to serve the world of transcendental service to Krishna.
Krishna's quality is that first He attracts and then He distributes His ecstatic mercy, thus giving ecstasy, anandam, to His devotees. He does not need to acquire this quality: it is already in His nature.
atmaramas cha munayo
Therefore the devotees always engage themselves in serving Krishna. Direct service is not possible here in this mundane plane but through Sri Guru and the Vaisnavas we have the auspicious chance to serve. The servitors do not look anywhere except to the order of Gurudeva and to the order of Krishna given through the Scriptures. They follow that guidance exclusively.
bahu janma kare yadi sravana-kirtana
The question may arise as to why we do not immediately find the manifestation of spiritual consciousness within ourselves. The reason is that we are not properly following the advice given in the Scriptures. Especially we are committing the very bad offences of Nama-aparadha: we are offenders to the Holy Name. There are ten types of Nama-aparadha given in the Scriptures and it is necessary to carefully avoid these. [See Appendix B]
Before Srila Swami Maharaj Prabhupada went to the West there was no chance there to make Vaisnava-aparadha, Nama-aparadha, and Dhama-aparadha, therefore very quickly the Westerners received connection with Mahaprabhu's Mission. Because they had not made such offences they submissively heard and followed Srila Swami Maharaj and they progressed easily. Later when the actions of some of them caused especially Nama-aparadha, they fell into the troublesome ocean.
The first lesson in any subject is generally very easy—simply listening. The first reading lesson is very easy with short two or three letter words, but with each progressive lesson there is more difficulty involved as it becomes necessary to understand and remember the longer words. In the primary stage if we are faced with some very big words we become puzzled to try to understand their meaning.
In bhakti-yoga it is explained that the first lesson is utsaha mayi: the stage when the devotees enthusiastically practise Krishna consciousness. Then in the stage of ghana tarala there is some depression in the mood of service. There are various stages of devotional service and these have been explained in the writings of Srila Bhakti Vinoda Thakur.
When Srila Swami Maharaj went to the West as an ambassador of Sriman Mahaprabhu, at that time many auspicious souls there received the chance to practise Krishna consciousness, and many also took up that opportunity. When trying to practise, difficulties will inevitably come, and if we are not careful and conscious about our devotional activities then we must fail in our class. Who practises without offence will receive promotion. However, after a few classes promotion may be stopped and in their front may come many bad things such as kanak, kamini, and pratistha—money and wealth; women and enjoyment; and name and fame. Name and fame is a very bad thing. We may feel that nobody can destroy our devotional life, but name and fame can do that, therefore it must consciously be avoided.
By the mercy of Srila Guru Maharaj we may feel ourselves to be protected from that by now, but it is foolishness if we think we have achieved spiritual life and therefore there is no need to guard against any further dangers. We must always be conscious to avoid any type of "infection". If we take penicillin for an extended period of time, the bacteria in the body become resistant to it and the penicillin no long works. Another medicine therefore becomes necessary.
When we ourselves become resistant to one "infection" another will try to attack us to thwart our spiritual progress.
yadi vaisnava-aparadha uthe hati mata
This verse says that Vaisnava-aparadha is like a mad elephant which rips out by the roots the creep of devotional service. Sometimes it is very difficult to understand what is a "mad elephant offence." Sometimes bad advice may come to us from someone who appears to be a Vaisnava. We may believe someone to be a good Vaisnava but if we will receive bad advice from him and follow that, it will be very injurious and we shall have to go to hell. Therefore we must always be conscious about our situation and with the knowledge we have from Guru, Vaisnava, and the Scriptures we shall try to avoid making any offences.
prema-maitri-krpopeksa yah karoti sa madhyamah
In madhyama-adhikara, the middle position, one generally has clear consciousness as to what is good and what is bad. In this stage, with proper direction, one can generally continue steadily with service. But it is very difficult to avoid committing offence if in the form of a good advisor-Vaisnava we are guided towards Vaisnava-aparadha. Therefore whenever the need may arise we are to follow the advice of Narottama Thakur and pray sincerely to the Vaisnavas, "Please save me."
We are to pray, "O Guru Maharaj, please save me," "O Vaisnava Thakur, please save me."
The advice of the Scriptures is that if we are not sure of someone we shall not glorify him, insult him, or abuse him, and we shall not go to him; instead we will avoid him—na nindiva na vandiva na yava tara pasa. If we can proceed in this way then we must achieve our transcendental destination.
It is necessary to remind ourselves that what we have already achieved is not so easily attainable by everyone. We have connection with Srila Swami Maharaj, with Srila Guru Maharaj, with the Rupanuga Sampradaya, and we have connection with Mahaprabhu. Before Swami Maharaj went to the West no one there knew Mahaprabhu's Name, but now many are chanting the name of Krishna, the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, and they are dancing. We have much and now it is necessary to keep it carefully protected within our hearts. The time has now come to give protection to our creeper of devotion, our bhakti-lata, otherwise it can be destroyed.
We may feel very enthusiastic if we focus on what is written in the sastras or what is said by the Vaisnavas, but it may also sometimes make us feel hopeless to hear many things such as the injunctions, dangers, and the difficulties we may have to face on our long journey ahead. Therefore we should use our energy especially to try to protect the creeper of bhakti otherwise we are in great danger of losing everything.
te tam bhuktva svarga-lokam visalam
The nature of the mundane universes is that by doing good activities we go to the heavenly planets and by doing bad activities we go to the hellish planets. In the middle area are the earthly planets. In summary we can say there are these three gradations of worlds here. But actually we are not eager to understand all these material things. Our necessity is to understand ourselves—self realisation. Who am I? What is my duty? What is my highest destination? And what is my wealth? It is necessary to answer these questions and we are fortunate that Mahaprabhu Himself has given us guidance. It is firmly established that Krishna consciousness is the highest conception and, by the grace of Srila Guru Maharaj and Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada, this is undefeated anywhere. We are trying to follow and we know ourselves to be so fortunate because we have come and joined in this Krishna consciousness. If we had not come we could have gone to the section of the mayavadis (impersonalists), or the sahajiyas (imitators), or to any of the many other sections of partial religious conception. Understanding the wealth we have, we shall happily and cautiously protect and keep our faith and service in this line of Krishna consciousness.
When I see the service mood of the devotees who are sacrificing so much and expending so much energy for the preaching mission of Mahaprabhu I feel so much inspiration.
We are so fortunate that we have many things, now it is the time to use that "property" properly. I heard from Srila Guru Maharaj the phrase, "religion is proper adjustment." Everything has been given but it is necessary for us to make proper adjustment: to understand who we are; what our duty is; who is Krishna, and who is His servitor.
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